Showing posts with label wetlands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wetlands. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Death by irony

Just in to the newsroom, this important message for all Louisianians living south of Baton Rouge.


This was made necessary by a bit of mutual exclusivity not easily grasped in a state where lots and lots of people don't even make it through high school -- a state unusually dependent on the kindness of strangers that tends to go whole-hog for politicians who just aren't all that generous. In 2010, Louisiana voters turned out whole-hog for whole-hog.

Now their congressmen are part of the charge to pauperize Uncle Sam by cutting up his credit cards, which House Republicans already had been hiding from him. All this has left the Whole-Hog State -- the one with the vanishing coastline and hurricane-ravaged city -- doing its Blanche DuBois routine to a fusillade of rotten tomatoes and tea bags.

WVUE television reports from New Orleans:
Near the heart of the city, where a cypress forest once thrived, a visitor will find only skeletal remains-- the trunks of hundreds of dead trees jutting from the water bottom like tombstones.

The central wetlands of New Orleans' lower ninth ward are dead, but only miles away the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built some of the world's most elaborate flood defenses.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Washington lavished $14 billion dollars on Greater New Orleans-- new flood walls, levees, barriers and storm gates designed to provide the city 100-year storm protection.

Four years ago, Congress also authorized $6-$8 billion in coastal restoration projects, only to leave the projects unfunded dreams on paper.

"Leaving folks in a vulnerable situation is simply not an option," said Garret Graves, Chairman of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Twice in the month of July, Congress has shot down money aimed at rebuilding Louisiana's coastline.

First, the House rejected $36 million in restoration money that had been included in President Barack Obama's original budget proposal.

Then, last Thursday, a Senate Committee debated a proposal to grant Louisiana and other coastal states 37.5% of royalties from offshore oil and gas wells in federal waters.

The plan never came up for a vote after supporters, realizing they lacked the required votes for passage, bolted the room and denied the committee a quorum.

"All we're asking for is our fair share," said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal at a gathering last week in Thibodaux, where he announced a series of small projects designed to bridge some of the funding gap.
WELL, BOBBY, the Tea Party manufactured a debt crisis, and now Washington is throwing your "fair share" into the rising waters. They can't help themselves -- it's what lunatics do, with the full support of yourself and most of your subjects constituents.

So, is Bobby Jindal
that cynical, or is he the dumbest Brown graduate ever?

Now excuse me while I explain to the Louisiana electorate that the last sentence was referencing Jindal's alma mater and not his skin color.
Natural selection, you see, is a bitch.

Monday, August 02, 2010

They died for your sins

Never has there been a more appropriately named place than Delacroix, La.

Delacroix. De la croix.

Of the cross.

Two millennia ago, civilized society hung the Son of God on a cross and killed him due to practical concerns, as recounted in John 11:
So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation."
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You
know nothing,

nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish."
He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
TWO MILLENNIA LATER, modern, industrial society hung Delacroix, its people and their way of life on a modern, industrial cross and killed it due to practical concerns, as recounted in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune:
On a blustery spring day, Delacroix native Lloyd Serigne stands on the banks of Bayou Terre aux Boeufs, 30 miles south of New Orleans, talking about the village that raised him in the 1950s. Reaching into a deep well of memories, he paints an idyllic picture: A community of several hundred fishers, farmers and trappers whose homes were surrounded by a wetlands paradise of high ridges, marshes and swamps. The outside world -- unwanted, unneeded -- seemed a thousand miles away.

But the scene surrounding him only mocks that vision.

Naked slabs and raw pilings that once supported homes stand like tombstones in open, soggy ground. Bare tree trunks rise from a salt marsh that used to be a vegetable field. Battered home appliances, ice chests and derelict boats litter the bank while a high tide moves through the remains of a hardwood forest. And a steady stream of heavy equipment heads down the road to fight the invasion of BP's oil.

None of it matches memories that seem as sharp as yesterday's news.

"Really, what we had here was a paradise -- a natural paradise," Serigne, 70, says with a smile of fond remembrance. He pauses to shake his head, a gesture half of wonder, half of despair.

"But when I try to tell the young people about this, they just stare at me like I'm crazy. They just can't imagine what was here such a short time ago.

"And now it's gone. Just gone."
DELACROIX. It died for your sins -- or, more specifically, for your SUV and all your stuff. A people, a culture and a now-gone landscape have born a cross of our society's making.

And the blood of people, cultures and whole places that are no more is upon us and our children . . . and our avarice.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

BP's human laboratory rats

"I wanted to leave several weeks ago, but my wife didn't want to leave, and we been married . . . well, our 30th anniversary was April 21, the day after the spill. So, I figure if she's gonna stay here and die, I'm gonna stay here and die with her."

Friday, July 09, 2010

'This water is poisonous'

When the government has no credibility because it's of, by and for the corporations pillaging its citizens, and when the press is so busy with "oil-spill gotcha" that it fails to ask fundamental questions, somebody's going to step into the breach.

"Somebody" could be a heroic citizen journalist. "Somebody" also could be a half-loony paranoid baselessly scaring the bejeezus out of people on Coast to Coast AM.

Has BP tapped into an undersea volcano, which is sure to unleash a tsunami that will destroy the entire Gulf Coast? Is the air so poisoned with benzene and hydrogen sulfide that the Gulf states will become an American Chernobyl?

Will hurricanes -- or just regular summer weather patterns -- spread toxic rain all across eastern North America, leaving it incapable of supporting human life for years?

Or, alternatively, should we just remain calm, because all is well?

EVERYBODY is claiming something. Transparency is elusive, and so is credibility. Still, you have to believe somebody.

The trouble is in discerning which somebody to believe.

Let's start with a simple question:
How much poison are the people of the Gulf Coast being doused with? The results some citizen watchdogs (top video) got from an independent lab are enough to give one pause.

This next video, an interview with a marine biologist on the Project Gulf Impact website, backs up one's worst fears on that point.

AS DOES this from the same website:

MEANTIME, the EPA tells us everything is all right. Meantime, clean-up workers aren't being given respirators. Meantime, the national press parrots the official line, interviews a dissenter or two . . . but won't spring for any independent testing.

And meantime, how many expendable, working-class Americans down there are going to turn up dead in five, 10 or 20 years?

This report from WWL-TV isn't encouraging. In fact, it makes you wonder why officials aren't starting to talk about evacuations.

AND WHILE one hesitates to believe a word of anything touched by Alex Jones and his Prison Planet website and radio show (not to mention Coast to Coast AM and a whole motley crew of online conspiracy nuts) . . . what the hell is up with this?

Are we facing an acid-rain blight across the Gulf South and Eastern Seaboard? Where are the mainstream science reporters when stuff, like the following sampling of
YouTube dispatches, is showing up all over the Internet?

OK, mainstream journalism, does anyone have a plausible explanation for this not involving the end of life east of the Mississippi River? Plant biologists? Organic chemists? Climatologists?

Anyone? Anyone? Americans across the Gulf South are starting to lose their s*** -- and their vegetation -- because . . . anyone? Anyone?

AND NOW that we're heading toward the meat of what's forecast to be one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons ever, this (below) is the level of planning going on at all levels of government:

CREDIBILITY right now is about in as short supply as marine life in the central Gulf of Mexico. Legitimacy of the federal government is careening toward a similarly scarce state.

And if the wackos are right --
on any one of their apocalyptic forecasts -- the United States of America can put its head between its legs and kiss its ass goodbye.

FOR THAT MATTER, when you have Kindra Arneson -- the fisherman's wife-turned-activist who's become one of the go-to interviewees for the national media -- is saying s*** like this and still getting microphones stuck in her face, governmental credibility and legitimacy may well be so compromised that an oily tsunami or a toxic-rain apocalypse would just serve to speed up the inevitable.

We now return you to our continuing coverage of the political pissing match, live from Washington, D.C.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Ve haff veys uff makink you see no evil

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. . . .

And now the Obama Administration is out-Bushing the Bushies with an outright ban on the public -- or the press -- seeing what's going on with . . . anything. No one will be able, under penalty of federal law, to get close enough to clean-up boats or oil booms to see our government at work.

Or not.

FROM A story in Thursday's Times-Picayune in New Orleans:
The Coast Guard has put new restrictions in place across the Gulf Coast that prevent the public - including news photographers and reporters covering the BP oil spill - from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches.

According to a news release from the Unified Command, violation of the "safety zone" rules can result in a civil penalty of up to $40,000, and could be classified as a Class D felony. Because booms are often placed more than 40 feet on the outside of islands or marsh grasses, the 65-foot rule could make it difficult to photograph and document the impacts of oil on land and wildlife, media representatives said.

But federal officials said the buffer zone is essential to the clean-up effort.

"The safety zone has been put in place to protect members of the response effort, the installation and maintenance of oil containment boom, the operation of response equipment and protection of the environment by limiting access to and through deployed protective boom," the news release said.

The Coast Guard on Tuesday had initially established an even stricter "safety zone" of more than 300 feet, but reduced the distance to 20 meters - 65 feet - on Wednesday. In order to get within the 65-foot limit, media must call the Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans, Edwin Stanton, to get permission.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the oil spill, said in a press briefing Thursday that it is "not unusual at all" for the Coast Guard to establish such a safety zone, likening it to a safety measure that would be enacted for "marine events" or "fireworks demonstrations" or for "cruise ships going in and out of port."

Allen said BP had not brought up the issue, but that he had received some complaints from county commissioners in Florida and other local elected officials who "thought that there was a chance that somebody would get hurt or they would have a problem with the boom itself."

Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert, who has been documenting the oil spill, raised concerns about the restrictions within his news organization on Wednesday. He has asked for a sit-down with Coast Guard officials to discuss the new policy - and the penalties - but has not received a response.
SOMEONE NEEDS to explain to President Obama and his enforcers that bad PR starts at the point where you begin to make tea-party paranoiacs' looniest pronouncements begin to look . . . prescient.

Acting like a bunch of thugs while performing official duties like the mayor's incompetent brother-in-law appointee is no way to inspire confidence in the federal government's response to a national environmental catastrophe. As I've said and said, the final crisis coming out of the BPocalypse will be one of governmental legitimacy.

And, ultimately, Obama won't be able to blame that one on George Bush.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

'God help us all'

Before hurricane season is over, chances are some part of the oil-fouled Gulf coastline is going to get whacked.

And when it does, a whole heapin' helpin' of toxic slop is going to go far inland.

I COULDN'T tell you how far inland in places like this -- northwest Florida. But I can tell you the oil could get way far "inland" in Louisiana.

AND IF -- when -- it does, we have no idea of the hell that's going to be unleashed in every possible way all hell can break loose.

President Obama must be clueless. A sane man, in possession of a clue, wouldn't be handling this mess as Obama has thus far.

He wouldn't be this lackadaisical on skimming the glop on the open water, as opposed to letting it get into marshes and estuaries.

AND HIS administration wouldn't be throwing roadblock after roadblock in front of local officials trying to do something to block the oil, even if it's of questionable value.

Certainly, a sane chief executive wouldn't be shutting down what's left of the economy of a battered state with a draconian deepwater-drilling "moratorium" that a scientific panel never recommended. No one -- aside from, perhaps, certain libertarian nutwagons -- is advocating anything less than strict federal oversight of ongoing and future drilling, something the Obama Administration was less than rigorous about before . . .
well . . . you know.

But this moratorium? Further crippling an already crippled economy?
In the middle of the Great Recession?

How does one go from almost Bushian levels of regulatory indifference to an outright ban so quickly, with so little regard for the economic and human toll?

THEN AGAIN, if people can get used to oily beaches enough that they let their kids play in the "tar balls" -- get used enough that they just pack Goo Gone in their beach bag, just like tanning lotion and Off -- maybe all the president's men figure folks along the Gulf coast will adjust to abject poverty amid a toxic "new normal" and won't make much trouble for Obama.

Or maybe the very legitimacy of the U.S. government -- one in the process of being exposed as both feckless
and uncaring -- will be challenged in ways we haven't allowed ourselves to imagine since 1865.

As the guy on Pensacola Beach said yesterday, "God help us all."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Obama's overdrawn ass

Down where I come from -- the part of the country, coincidentally, now being slimed by British Polluters' Gulf gusher -- we have a sayin'.

"Don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cash."

A variant is the sayin' my old man was quite fond of:
"Don't let your mouth overload your ass."

However you put it, it's a concept with which President Obama apparently is unfamiliar. But it's just those funny-talking rubes down in Louisiana, so it doesn't much matter how overdrawn the feds' ass might be,


That's because it's stories like this in
The Wall Street Journal that illustrate a couple of pertinent things that will come back to kick Obama's in this whole BR-fueled cataclysm. The first pertinent thing for all of us, but particularly Louisiana, is the need to watch what the government does, not listen to what it says.

THE SECOND pertinent thing, thanks to Washington's Gang That Can't Shoot Straight, is a fast-developing crisis of legitimacy for the U.S. government. Answer me this -- if the only thing your government is good for is making things worse after the fit hits the shan, what good is it?

Someone may have told you about this almost a month ago. First Katrina, now this. The evidence mounts.

Sadly, we turn to the Journal's accounting of this latest rhetorical check the president's rear couldn't cash:
BP last week agreed to hand over $20 billion—to cover spill victims such as fishermen and hotel workers who lost wages, and to pay for the cleanup costs—a move some politicians dubbed a "shake down" by the White House. Others have portrayed it as a capitulation by an oil giant responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in history. A more accurate picture falls somewhere between.

The fund is a big financial hit to BP. But behind the scenes, according to people on both sides of the negotiations, the company achieved victories that appear to have softened the blow.

BP successfully argued it shouldn't be liable for most of the broader economic distress caused by the president's six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And it fended off demands to pay for restoration of the Gulf coast beyond its prespill conditions.

After the high-profile meeting of administration and BP officials on Wednesday, it was in the interest of neither to discuss such details. BP wanted to look contrite and to make a grand gesture, and the White House wanted to look tough.

President Barack Obama came away touting how BP's money would be handed over quickly and impartially to those hurt by the spill. Not only did BP earmark the $20 billion fund but it promised an additional $100 million for Gulf workers idled by the drilling moratorium.

But BP didn't offer a blank check. The $100 million—0.5% of the total—won't come close to covering collateral damage from the White House's moratorium.

The drilling industry estimates the moratorium will cost rig workers as much as $330 million a month in direct wages, not counting businesses servicing those rigs like machine-shop workers.

BP and its defenders argue that the moratorium was a White House policy decision for which it shouldn't be responsible. The final deal was structured to limit the company's exposure to such claims.

BP negotiators also said the company won't pay for Mr. Obama's pledge to restore the Gulf of Mexico to a condition better than before the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20.

White House officials want to use the oil-spill disaster to implement long-developed plans to restore natural marshlands and waterways. Facing record budget deficits, that pledge could founder with BP balking.
BP (AND ITS MONEY) TALKED, and Obama's bulls*** is taking a walk. Maybe the president ought to have scheduled his Oval Office address for after his meeting with the BP executives:
Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats. And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.

I make that commitment tonight. Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, who is also a former governor of Mississippi and a son of the Gulf Coast, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.

The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again. A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe –- that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.

That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion -- these families deserve to know why. And so I’ve established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. Already, I’ve issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue. And while I urge the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.

the White House will deny the president ever said BP would pay for coastal restoration -- just for "the impact this spill has had on the region."

What the White House will not say is why that underwhelming statement was placed in the same paragraph as the president's overwhelming promise -- one made to be broken when nobody commits to massive taxpayer expenditures to fulfill it. Neither will the federal government compensate the scores of thousands of Louisianians who stand to lose their jobs -- and everything else -- because of Obama's "moratorium" on drilling.

It's amazing how quickly what's not BP's legal problem -- they didn't issue the ban on drilling, after all -- suddenly isn't the administration's political problem, either. It's just Louisiana, a hardscrabble state with a shrinking population . . .
which went for the other guy in 2008.

doesn't realize, in his arrogance, is that it is his political problem.

In other words, a president is as good as his word. A government is as legitimate as its word -- or, more importantly, as good as its actions on behalf of its citizens.

Right now, Obama risks becoming known as the liar leading a good-for-nothing government.

And this is "Change"?

God help him -- and all of us, too -- when Americans lose "Hope."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The view from Hades

When a multinational corporation cuts corners on a deepwater oil rig, blows the son of a bitch to high heaven, kills 11 crewmen and unleashes an oily apocalypse that consumes everything in its filthy path -- fish, turtles, birds, plankton, oysters, shrimp, marshes, jobs, health, cultures, lives -- you can count on Right-Wing America to put on a long face and tell us "Well, those things happen."

When government apprises this apocalypse wrought by the multinational corporation and decides the responsible party needs to pay up --
now -- suddenly the long faces of Right-Wing America contort into scowls, and pundits' voices rise as one unholy chorus from the depths of hell to wail "This shall not stand! Communists! Hugo Chavez tactics! Shakedown! Help! Help! Daddy Warbucks is being repressed!"

And the thing is . . . lots of people
buy this stuff. They buy into a societal anti-morality that turns social Darwinism into holy writ.

The devil, he's a real pro.

Blessed are the powerful! Alms for the rich! Kill the poor!

Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Judge Andrew Napolitano and 1,000,000 others like this.

HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Today's horror feature: Children of the Red Stick

Where I come from, old times there are not forgotten.

But at least -- once in a blue moon -- official Baton Rouge can be persuaded to look away, look away, look away from backwardness.

That's something, I guess.

Of course, after reading
the following story in this morning's Advocate, I'm thinking that the city's white-flighty northern suburbs might benefit from the resumption of Radical Reconstruction after a 130-odd year hiatus.

whether we could get BP to pay for it?
The Metro Council voted Wednesday to rezone a 52-acre site near Zachary so a residential program for troubled youths can be operated on the site.

The 8-3 vote to rezone the property for Heritage Ranch Christian Children’s Home on Tucker Road came over the objections of Councilman Trae Welch, who represents the area, and dozens of residents who packed the council’s chambers.

They complained the site isn’t suitable and said they fear for their safety because the operators have no experience running a residential program of this type.


While the project has support from influential business and community leaders in Baton Rouge, it drew intense opposition from people who live in the area.

“I’ve never received so many e-mails and calls about a zoning case,” councilwoman Alison Cascio said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s been incredible.”

The vote to rezone the property from rural to Planned Unit Development followed nearly three hours of impassioned debate.
YES, all this over plans to build a facility to help troubled, underprivileged kids. And not even the worst of the troubled, underprivileged kids.

Two things you have to realize about my hometown. One, the real problem here is that most of these "underserved" kids are likely to be black, and be from Baton Rouge, and the main selling point for the suburbs in question is they are neither.

Second, the folks up there really, really hate Baton Rouge. It's psychotic, actually -- depending on the "big city" for jobs and services at the same time you want nothing more than to escape it, then fiscally starve it to death.

Central and Zachary are where bond issues that benefit Baton Rouge go to die.

And during Wednesday's council session, you have to wonder whether the only folks holding down the fort in Central and Zachary were Mrs. Ashley Wilkes and Mrs. Frank Kennedy, waiting and knitting with Doc Meade's wife while reading aloud from
David Copperfield.

YOU SEE, everybody else went off to a "political meeting."
Opponents, including Bill Waters, who lives across the street from the project, were disappointed.

“We were out lobbied by the big money and the power brokers of Baton Rouge,” Waters said.

Welch had urged the council to reject the rezoning request, noting that everyone in the neighboring area was opposed to it.

He said 350 residents signed a petition opposing the rezoning.

Several opponents noted that the supporters speaking in favor of the rezoning don’t live in the area.

“Every single person lives in Baton Rouge,” Jennifer Patterson said of the supporters. “Not one lives in my community.”

They also talked about the impact young people with behavioral issues could have on the schools, and noted that similar programs operate on much larger sites in more-remote areas.

“We know what their vision is and what they hope Heritage Ranch will be,” Waters said, “but they simply do not have the expertise to do what they say they want to do.”
THIS WAS persuasive for Big Sam, played Wednesday by Ulysses "Bones" Addison, who voted against the facility. Despite the likelihood that some of the kids helped by the facility would come from his impoverished council district.

Of course, Big Sam never asked where opponents thought kids with behavioral problems are now, if not in public schools. Or asked whether some of the public-school kids with behavioral problems just might be their own.

Furthermore, the granddaddy of all "similar programs" isn't in a "
more-remote" area at all -- it's an adjacent suburb of Omaha. Maybe you've heard of it; it's called Boys Town.

Capt. Rhett Butler could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life with the 'small people'

The "small people" on Grand Isle, La., have something to say to BP . . . via a short film by Phin Percy who, by the way, is the nephew of Walker Percy, the great writer and maker of a hell of a mint julep.

Your BP-English, English-BP dictionary

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg is right: His company does care about the "small people." And nothing but the "small people."

Trouble is, the folks in charge of BP are the smallest people around.

The rest of us?
We're screwed.

Keep your eye on the bankruptcy courts.

What goes around . . . (oil-spill edition)

Folks in Louisiana lately have been doing a lot of bitching and moaning about being treated as second-class citizens in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

If that thing had blown up off the coast of Martha's Vineyard or Malibu, the argument goes, the federal government would be moving heaven and earth to protect those locales from the toxic black gook rolling in from the sea.

I agree. Louisianians are second-class citizens, and if BP had committed its BPocalypse off a trendier coastline, s*** would get done.

On the other hand, I cannot tell you how bad it looks when people whining about their second-class citizenry -- and, after all, the Gret Stet
is America's ghetto -- cry about how they are not neither "wogs" as they go about acting like wogs, governing like wogs, mangling the King's English like wogs . . . then turn away from the microphone to shovel a heapin' helpin' of down-home Whoop-Ass on people even woggier than themselves.

Well, dat's Louisiana for you.

APPARENTLY, some government officials in a state now obsessed with its lack of civil rights (for lack of a better term) never got the memo from the Big Guy -- and I'm not talking Barack Obama -- about the whole "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing.

For example, here's what happens when a non-profit group wants to open a Christian camp for underprivileged kids in the northern suburbs of Baton Rouge, otherwise known as Places White People Like. J.R. Ball, the
Baton Rouge Business Report's executive editor, picks up the story from here:
Citizens of East Baton Rouge—thanks to a little thing called “democracy”—are free to call and e-mail their elected representatives to express support or opposition to matters that will come before the Metro Council. This week’s rezoning request is no exception. Numerous constituents have sent e-mails to council members asking that they grant the Heritage Ranch’s rezoning request.

Disturbingly moronic are the responses from our so-called elected leaders. More troublesome, sadly, is that such replies are far too frequent.

Welch, in whose district the proposed project would be built, was quick to weigh in with his opposition, writing that while he had no problem with Heritage Ranch, he did have a problem with “where the project is to be placed.” Who says the term NIMBY is reserved solely for neighborhood association members? Apparently, life for residents along Tucker Road would be destroyed if there was a facility that provided guidance and hope while instilling moral values in the underserved youth of Baton Rouge.

It’s a pair of retorts, however, from council member Bones Addison that leaves me crazier than that bird chasing Cocoa Puffs.

On June 9, at 10:28 a.m., Addison responded to e-mailers with this: “This matter is in Mr. Welch’s district. I will be seeking advice regarding this re-zoning [sic] from the member who [sic] district it impacts. I have suggested to others who have sent me the e-mail blast that they contact Mr. Welch because he is elected to represent the citizens of that neighborhood.”

He closes with this: “Be size [sic], I don’t even know where Tucker Road is.”

Addison, four hours later, fires off this e-mail to a group of residents and two fellow council members: “Hey, why don’t everybody stop e-mailing me on it, [sic] its [sic] not in my district. I would great [sic] appreciate that.”
MONDAY NIGHT, as I was writing my post about how Louisiana's real problem is that it's America's 'hood, I resisted the temptation to use the phrase "What goes around, comes around" in reference to the state's historical internal struggles over equality, class and race. I thought it would be gratuitous and mean.

Suddenly, it's not a problem anymore. Louisiana keeps making my point for me . . . even when I hold back from making it.

Why bother trying
not to stick a shiv in people hell-bent on committing hara-kiri anyway?

As I said,
historical ironies abound.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Straight outta Compton Louisiana

The problem with Louisiana is it's in the 'hood.

Hell, it
is the 'hood. Historical ironies abound.

If a whole country of 300 million can have a 'hood, Louisiana fills the bill. It's got poverty problems. It's got crime problems. It's got health problems. It, Lord knows, has education problems.

It even has had not only
a Marion Barry -- the former ethically and chemical-dependency challenged mayor of Washington, D.C. -- but several Marion Barrys in its "colorful" political history. Note that when one speaks of "colorful" government, this is not a synonym for "effective" or even "minimally competent."

America's 'hood also suffers from an economy too reliant on just a few things. One of the few things on which Louisiana is overreliant happens to be the petrochemical industry -- this bad neighborhood of poor folks and problem cases is where we stick all the industries we depend upon . . . but don't want in the "nice" part of town.

It's where we put all the offshore oil rigs --
like the Deepwater Horizon -- we rely on for our daily petroleum fix but don't want anywhere near, say, Malibu. Or Martha's Vineyard. Or Miami Beach.

And if something goes
BOOM! in the night, it's just blowing up people -- whole cultures, even -- whose main qualification for the honor is being unlike "people like us."

And if the thing that's just gone
BOOM! in the night starts to soil Boudreaux's marsh and Thibodeaux's oyster beds, we'll leave the cleanup to the negligent screw-ups who caused the mess in the first place, because . . . who cares? It's the 'hood!

WE HAVE good reasons for maintaining a 'hood. This is just one.

Of course, we have other reasons for having national 'hoods, just like our local ones. For one thing, it makes it easier to find people to exploit -- from your local streetwalker to your low-paid service- and hospitality workers, who provide services and hospitality somewhat different from that of low-wage hookers on the corner.

For another, the 'hood provides a convenient focus for the attention of "progressives" striving for "solidarity" with someone . . .
anyone. And for hipsters, it provides a handy place to seek "authenticity" in all manner of things -- food, music, culture, "expression."

How very quaint to possess the charms of the rustic . . .
or the dispossessed.

Charm and "authenticity" are not enough, however, to save you from toxic emissions, failing infrastructure, a poor education or even a big-ass oil spill that eventually will destroy all the Stuff White People Like about you.

If you're the 'hood we call Louisiana, note well the stuff people like
about you, which is different from actually liking you. Because they don't.

There is no place on earth with more "authenticity" in music, food, culture and all other manner of expression than New Orleans. The place is chockablock with Stuff White People Like. Was that sufficient for the American people to safeguard all this authentic goodness by preserving robust wetlands and building Category 5 hurricane-protection levees?


It's the 'hood, for God's sake.

What's hailed as "colorful" culture and politics in south Louisiana, is a clear case of
"Edna! Call 911!" if it makes its way to Our Town. That or occasion to urgently convene an anti-corruption task force, depending.

Don't get caught in Uncle Sam's neighborhood after dark. We're going to want to know how you got that nice car you're driving.

OF COURSE, the underprivileged now and again take extreme umbrage at some slight, real or perceived, and they start to "act out." This has to be carefully managed. Usually, you can head things off by putting the ringleaders and "troublemakers" swiftly in their place.

Here's how the mayor and "civic leaders" handled things in 1963 when "the Negroes" started to get out of hand in Omaha:
Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish whose frustrations about the federal government response have been featured prominently on TV in the past few weeks, told ABC News that in the private meeting the president had with local leaders here today, President Obama "chewed me out."

Nungesser, a Republican, told ABC News that President Obama "told me that we need to communicate."

He said that he told President Obama that after his first visit to the region a few weeks ago, "We got the jack-up boats done cause of you. And you spent more time with us than any other president. But since then, it was a bottleneck. Things weren't getting done. All of it was sitting in the marsh."

Nungesser said the president told him, "'Well you know, if you can't get it done through the chain of command' -- and he's made some changes; we've got a guy on the ground now that can make decisions -- he said, 'you pick up the phone and call the White House. And, if you can't get me on the phone, then you can go blast me.'"
DAMN. I seem to have put up the wrong clip. Let's try this one:
And I will make one last point -- and I said this to every leader who is here: If something is not going right down here, then they need to talk to Thad Allen. And if they’re not getting satisfaction from Thad Allen, then they can talk to me. There’s nobody here who can’t get in touch with me directly if there is an idea, a suggestion, or a logjam that needs to be dealt with.

So we’re in this together. And it’s going to be a difficult time, and obviously the folks down here are going to be feeling the brunt of it, but we’re going to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to get this solved as quickly as possible.
S***. Third time's the charm, right?
Last May, the Rev. Mr. Jones and several other young ministers formed the 4CL, or Citizens' Coordinating Committee for Civil Liberties. "They barged into my office," angrily recalls Mayor Dworak, "with a series of outrageous demands. I offered to appoint one of them, the Rev. Rudolph McNair, to my biracial citizens' committee. Apparently, that wasn't enough, because they picketed the very first meeting of the committee. We won't stand for that here in Omaha."

Made up of Omaha's most influential citizens, the Mayor's Bi-racial Committee claims it is carefully laying the groundwork for the correction of Negro complaints. Says Morris E. Jacobs, a prosperous Omaha businessman and one of the leaders of the committee, "We're trying to set up an ideal that can serve as an example for the whole United States. And what happens? They picket! I got wind of it beforehand, and phoned Reverend McNair. I said. 'We didn't know about your grievances. Now that you've made them known, give us a chance to settle things and redeem ourselves with dignity — don't crowd us.'

Look magazine, Dec. 17, 1963

the formula for dealing with the 'hood. Sometimes, it backfires and you get a big riot or something, but it's still the
"industry best practice" for dealing with "those people."

Let's review: First, those running the show must sound reasonable so that the troublemakers sound like . . . unreasonable troublemakers. Second, it's important to be intimidating. Never, ever should a mayor, governor, civic leader . . . or president . . . show fear.

It's like dealing with the wild kingdom -- some species can sense fear, and that will not go well for the power elite.

Third, it helps to be condescending. This is related to intimidation. Highly effective with low-class people, who may harbor inferiority complexes you can exploit.

Finally, if those in charge want to stay in charge, they must always voice their sincere intention to work on the issues that so aggrieve the restless hordes. They must stress this over and over. Likewise, they must implore the aggrieved to be "reasonable" and "calm," emphasizing that people must "work through the system."

See, "Call center, BP."

In all this, sincerity is the key. If governmental and civic leaders can fake that, they've got it made.

Of course, the needed resources never seem to materialize. It's the 'hood, after all, and Americans don't do 'hood. Nothing ever seems to be done; nothing ever seems to change, and we like it that way.

Because it's the 'hood. Republican or Democrat, the consistent policy is "out of sight, out of mind." The 'hood is not like us. For the most part, we're quite content to let it -- and everyone in it -- die.

Though we'd just as soon not see or hear about it. See, "Gag rules, clean-up worker" and "Restrictions, press."

WHEN IT COMES right down to it, this is the moment I have been writing about for almost four years now. Every time I've written about Louisiana and its political and cultural challenges, this is what I was getting at.

I didn't know how it would happen, but I knew Louisiana's existential crisis would come -- in many ways, had come -- and that when it did . . . the 'hood wasn't any place you'd want to be. But there Louisiana is.

In the 'hood. With all the bad things, few of the good things, and with "les Americains" probably figuring they're better off with Louisiana dead. If you want to survive, Boudreaux, go chain yourself to an oil pipeline now. We'll take care of those, probably.

In effect, what I've been trying to argue -- poorly -- is that if Louisiana were a TV show, it would be Sanford and Son, and it probably would earn a nice write up in Better Homes & Ghettos. Now, America thought ol' Fred G. Sanford was funny and all -- "colorful" and "authentic," no doubt -- but there's no way we'd want the real-life version of the irascible junk man in our neighborhood.

What I also have been arguing for these past few years -- poorly -- is that Louisiana's survival hinged on its somehow transforming itself into a higher class of (ahem) "ethnic" program, say The Cosby Show. The Huxtables, they had it goin' on.

America loved Cliff and Clair Huxtable -- the doctor and the lawyer. America loved their bright and adorable kids. America welcomed the Huxtables into their homes every week, and they would have welcomed them into their neighborhood, too.

There's plenty percentage in being like the Huxtables. America would do anything for Cliff and Clair, and even if they didn't, the Huxtables could shift for themselves just fine in the modern world.

Unlike Louisiana. Alas.

Is all this right? No. Are all men created equal? In the eyes of God, at least.

But aren't we all Americans? Equal under the law? E pluribus unum, and all that?

In theory, yes. But theory is just another word for marketing, and marketing always takes liberties with the unvarnished truth.

The unvarnished truth is that this is a fallen world we inhabit, a true vail of tears. In such a place -- in such a country as even this -- it's a hell of a thing to have "always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Blanche DuBois. Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Set in New Orleans.

Go figure.