Friday, December 08, 2006


Ashley puts together a roundup of NOLA bloggers and things that were said recently. All the links are good ones, but the following really caught my eye as to the state of opinions down in this part of the world.

From NOLA Slate:
These ideas sound seditious, eh? Hey you, up in Dubuque, not liking this? Think we're all a bunch of wild eyed radicals? WRONG, although we could be, soon. As Ashley said, in post-WW2 Europe people rebuilt their city themselves, in some cases brick by brick. Okay, is that what it will take? Tell us and we'll do it. Quit dicking around. We'll get the voter registration rolls and put everyone to work in shifts. Most of us would willingly tote wheelbarrows and trowels if it meant that we'd be safe, a term used often and with great effect in the "War on Terror."
Being in New Orleans for lo, these many weeks has been like a doctoral course on duality. While there is a great feeling of gratitude to the individuals and organizations that have come down to the Gulf Coast to pitch in, there is a seething discontent and frustration at the way government, at all levels, is 'handling' the rebuilding. Not the least of which is the 'oh, we'll take care of those levees...when we get around to it.' Then of course, there is the punditry from elsewhere (like the North Dakota email) that claim New Orleanian and Gulf Coast residents' demands for redress of greivances are nothing but 'howling' and 'blame' and 'do-nothingism.' If the USA no longer wants to take care of the levees in New Orleans, New Orleans would build the levees, restore the coastline and protect herself. NOLA and the Gulf would just need some of that money the Federal government recieves in oil and natural gas drilling revenue, and the right to redress the grievance against the ACoE in a Court of Law. I can only imagine that The City of New Orleans vs. the United States of America would be a compelling Supreme Court case to follow for the nation as a whole. (Because, though you may not be able to sue the US Army Corps of Engineers, you can sue the United States of America.)

Then there's this one from the Wet Bank Guide regarding the spirit of hope:
We have to recognize that we are in the position of Lincoln in the depths of the civil war. We are in a battle for our very existence as we conceive ourselves, and the old generals are failing us, are leading us through timidity and incompetence to defeat. We need new generals, who will treat the rest of the nation as Grant and Sherman treated the south, as ruthlessly as necessary to get the job done.
I believe the people of New Orleans haven't given up hope because we had so little of it to begin with. The venality of politicians, the inefficiency of government, the vicissitudes of weather and termites, of social and economic decay, all of these breed a certain sense of fatalism, an "if Allah wills it" quality that is alien to most Americans. We have a sense that New Orleans, without those burdens, would no longer be the place we love. We cherish a notion of ourselves as the equivalent of a nineteenth century sailor's Shanghai, a colonial outpost of sensuality and corruption and decay. We don't want to be 21st century Singapore, a model of totalitarian efficiency and cleanliness. It just ain't who we are.

And yet, the insha'Allah and the ennui are a mask, one we wear not just on a certain winter Tuesday, but most days of the year. Behind that mask are the people who get up five days a week and haul their kids to school, then go to work. They get up on a sweltering Saturday and overcome their tropical torpor to mow the grass. Later that night, they go out to try that new restaurant.

They get up on Sunday and hope that, this time, the Saints might win. Somewhere today in New Orleans (or Houston or Baton Rouge or Atlanta), someone will put down their beer, and talk about how wild it will be in the Quarter the year the Saints win the Super Bowl. At some level, and as much as we might not want to admit it, we are a hopeful people. Hedged in by levees that may or may not hold, beset Formosan termites and feckless politicians at every level, it would be impossible to live here without it.

Its a funny kind of hope, as old as Abraham. When you expect the worst around every corner, as often as not you will turn that corner and find some small thing that gives you a tremendous lift. That's where we find hope, like a glinting half dollar on the broken sidewalk as you walk from a bad day at the track to Liuzza's, the little mystical sign that maybe today or at least tomorrow is going to turn out all right.
And finally, the whole body of Moldy City's John Barry Katrina Anniversary Op Ed. John Barry is the author of Rising Tide, which I am currently reading, which is quickly rising in my personal list of 'most important American history books you should have but didn't hear about in high school.'


Anonymous said...

I'm curious. How'd nola slate mananage to pull in Dubuque? Hs Iowa done something to piss off NOLA? Or, does NOLA Slate need a geography lesson?

Patrick Armstrong said...

The refrence (I thought) was to folks in the upper Mississippi Valley who get a lot of products directly from the Port of New Orleans. The ideas that should sound seditious, and the things Dubuque should not like are the conversations among some New Orleanians to call for massive civil disobedience and either shut down the port or withold federal tax dollars and spend those dollars instead on levees.

But the specific reference to Dubuque? I'm not sure. I was only taking the article as written, so I don't know if it is a figurative refrence to a city in the Midwest or if there is a specific reason that particular burg was included.

ashleymorris said...

I do know that Iowa is one of the states where no senator has bothered to see the devastation.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. No Senator or Congressperson from New Hampshire. Sorry, the importance of visiting by a Senator or Representative from another state is overrated. With TV coverage, etc. I don't have to visit to realize that much damage occurred and it will take much time and money for recovery.

When was the last time a Senator or Representative from Louisiana visited California after an earthquake or bad urban fire like the one in Oakland a few years back? The visit thing is mostly silly. What NOLA needs is carpenters, electricians, heavy equipment operators, etc., not politicians and celebrities looking for photo ops and showing their "compassion."

Patrick Armstrong said...

What NOLA also needs -among many things, so it seems to me- is sincere and effective assistance from a Federal level. I'm not wondering about photo ops near as much as I'm worrying about the people who run our country only getting their information from the news.

And as someone who's been here, those parts of the Gulf Coast that have been affected by the storms, the only way to really grasp the enormity of the damage and rebuilding effort, how much has been done and how much there is left to do, is to come down here and see it for yourself.

(I mean, you can see all the pictures of the Grand Canyon you want, but the only way you know that the pictures don't do it justice is to visit.)

Back to policy, I would think Federal representatives would need to visit anywhere a Federal response was needed. This is especially true of those federal delegations whose states have significant amounts of trade and commerce running through or immediately around the Port of New Orleans.

But their participation or lack thereof is just one reason that NOLA Slate may have included the Dubuque refrence.

Anonymous said...

I understand your point regarding visiting. It is hard to fully grasp something, at times, without personal experience. Sorta like trying to explain what a mountain is to someone who's never left Kansas.

But on the other hand, I think any reasonably to intelligent adult would adequately realize the devastation wreaked by a hurricane, especially one that recieved the broad media saturation of Katrina. Expecting elected officials from states thousands of miles away is not realistic and has too much of a "poor, pitiful me" attitude.

I'm not sure NOLA is getting all the aid it needs to rebuild at this moment. But I'd rather see caravans of people in the building trades than Senators.

NOLA could take advantage of this moment to become a much improved, safer, more enjoyable city for residents and visitors. Two examples they could study and emulate are Cleveland, OH and Chattanooga, TN. Neither experienced a disaster but through good planning and coordinated effort changed themselves from dirty, ugly industrial towns into two of the most livable cities on the planet.

Patrick Armstrong said...

I think any reasonably to intelligent adult would adequately realize the devastation wreaked by a hurricane

On the serious side: yeah, I thought that, too.

To agree, I'd love to see caravans of contractors, too. Many are here now, anyway, but the more the merrier and the faster this undertaking will be accomplished.

But all the construction and urban planning in the world is going to mean squat unless New Orleans and lower Louisiana get the levees and flood protection and coastal restoration that is needed.

Right now, for good or ill, that falls under federal jurisdiction and responsibility. A job this big is one of those issues that government on a federal level is needed to provide leadership and follow through. A job this big (and I'm only talking about levees, flood control and coastal restoration) is something that must be tackled at a national level.

Ergo, the rebuilding of New Orleans is dependent on the federal levels of government understanding why it is important that levees, flood control and coastal restoration are dealt with seriously and effectively.

That's the reason I think Senators and Reps should come down here: so that they understand the importance of oversight and seriousness and effectiveness of federal projects - and what kinds of suffering take place when oversight and seriousness and effectiveness are absent from federal projects and the federal levels.

The other option, of course, is that Louisiana and New Orleans are left to build and maintain levees, flood control and coastal restoration all on their own. That means additional taxes are going to have to be levied (no pun intended) for freight and petroleum and natural gas that come through the Port of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.

But that would affect interstate commerce directly, again placing this ball in the court of US federal policy.