Wednesday, May 26, 2010


DAY 527: Other than a few long ago breaks in the heavy, threatening clouds, the rain hasn't stopped. The ground is soft and saturated. A greenish spongy substance that first appeared on the north side of my body is growing and is spreading. The once upstanding blades of grass have turned dull -bent with the weight of the constant rain. Nothing is growing in the gardens or fields but the strongest most resilient, inedible weeds. The freezer is nearly empty of the little food we salvaged and preserved from last summer, which was not much of a summer at all. Bea is reconsidering her vegetarian ways, but the chickens and goats have become weak and emaciated. The cars and dogs don't even have any meat left on their bones. Otis looks at me in "that way," but I will be damned if I will be his dinner. We hear reports from outlying areas that there is a deluge off the coast that's drifting in. More rain is on the way. Roads are being cut off by the flooding. Fields are turning to marshland. I don't know how much more I can take... WELCOME TO OREGON!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I try not to make comments about the politics in other states. I have a difficult enough time trying to make sense of what happens in my home state. Having said that, I need to retract it. I have recently commented on Texas, Arizona and previously, Alaska and Minnesota's scary she-devil, Michele Bachmann. But since the media made such a to-do about the first out and out Tea Party candidate winning a primary for the U.S, senate, I feel okay in repeating Dr. Rand Paul's words and adding a picture and a brief comment. Here's another comment on the ophthalmologist and novice politician: he's a moron. If I were to offer any advice to him, I would strongly suggest he keep his moth shut until November. At this rate, his medical training is going to do him no good at all. He will instead need a podiatrist and oral surgeon, to get his foot out of his mouth. I suppose it could be worse. He could need and anal-cranial specialist, to get his head out from up his ass.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is Texas burning?

Oh, the fire shines bright
In the smoke-filled night
(handclap) Burnin' books in Texas

Texas adopts educations standards
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas State Board of Education adopted a social studies and history curriculum Friday that amends or waters down the teaching of religious freedoms, America's relationship with the U.N. and hundreds of other items.
The new standards were adopted after a final showdown by two 9-5 votes along party lines, after Democrats' and moderate Republicans' efforts to delay a final vote failed.

In one of the most significant curriculum changes, the board dilutes the rationale for the separation of church and state in a high school government class, noting that the words were not in the Constitution and requiring students to compare and contrast the judicial language with the First Amendment's wording.

An Ideological Debate: Opernplatz, May 10, 1933

The ideological debate over the guidelines, which drew intense scrutiny beyond Texas, will be used to determine what important political events and figures some 4.8 million students will learn about for the next decade.

The standards, which one Democrat called a "travesty," also will be used by textbook publishers who often develop materials for other states based on guidelines approved in Texas, although teachers in the Lone Star state have latitude in deciding how to teach the material.

The board attempted to make more than 200 amendments this week alone, reshaping draft standards that had been prepared over the last year and a half by expert groups of teachers and professors.

As new amendments were being presented just moments before the vote, Democrats bristled that the changes had not been vetted.

During the monthslong revision process, conservatives strengthened requirements on teaching the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers and required that the U.S. government be referred to as a "constitutional republic," rather than "democratic." Students will be required to study the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

They also rejected language to modernize the classification of historic periods to B.C.E. and C.E. from the traditional B.C. and A.D., and agreed to replace Thomas Jefferson as an example of an influential political philosopher in a world history class. They also required students to evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.

Former board chairman Don McLeroy, one of the board's most outspoken conservatives, said the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed to the left after years of Democrats controlling the board and he just wants to bring it back into balance.

"I'm proud to have my name on this document," Republican board member Barbara Cargill said shortly before the vote.

"We took our licks, we got outvoted," he said referring to the debate from 10 years earlier. "Now it's 10-5 in the other direction ... we're an elected body, this is a political process. Outside that, go find yourself a benevolent dictator."

Uh, we found a dictator. Benign? Hmmm.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said school officials "should keep politics out" of curriculum debates.

"We do a disservice to children when we shield them from the truth, just because some people think it is painful or doesn't fit with their particular views," Duncan said in a statement. "Parents should be very wary of politicians designing curriculum."

After the vote, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas urged the state Legislature to place more control over the board.

"At the end of three long days, the State Board of Education has amended, re-amended and approved curriculum standards that are more ideological than ever, despite pleas to not politicize what is taught to Texas school children," said the state ACLU's executive director, Terri Burke.

At least one lawmaker vowed legislative action to "rein in" the board.

"They have ignored historians and teachers, allowing ideological activists to push the culture war further into our classrooms," said Rep. Mike Villareal, a San Antonio Democrat. "They fail to understand that we don't want liberal textbooks or conservative textbooks. We want excellent textbooks, written by historians instead of activists."

... uh, can we save Lyle, Willie, Marcia Ball and the Kinkster before setting the state ablaze?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Flavor of the Week

The world has become a little like the Baskin & Robbins of calamities and catastrophies, natural, man-made and mandated. And each week, we have a different flavor. The flavor of the week can be, for example, Chile Shake, followed by Haitian Horror. Sometimes, we seem to have more than one flavor of the week, like this week, when we had both Rand Paul Praline and KBR Krunch—a noxious blend of hexavalent chromium swirled in with sharp bits of IED shrapnel.

You may be disappointed to learn that KBR Krunch is currently only available through legal means in the state of Oregon. After all, the spokesperson for KBR was quoted in the Oregonian, "Ethics and integrity are the foundation of our business. The company in no way tolerates or condones illegal or unethical behavior. When questions about our work have been raised, KBR has provided information requested of us and worked to resolve the issues. We remain committed to providing the Army with high-quality, cost effective service," spokeswoman Heather Browne said in a statement.

If you buy that, I've got a big fat truthy book by Dick Cheney to sell you.

It’s a good thing that someone in R&D at the ice cream shop had the foresight to plan for the RP Praline, as it was referred to in the test kitchen, and make sure that there would be no conflict with the originally planned Palin Praline, which was eventually released as Half-Baked Alaska, and came in only one size… half-term.

You may walk into the ice cream shop with a hankering for Nashville Ripple, (that tasty concoction of vanilla ice cream ribboned with chocolaty sludge) only to find it’s no longer available. It seems that outside a small circle of friends, no one seems all that focused on the tragedy that befell upon Music City. On the other hand, Gulf Goo seems to have been held over, as the company keeps making it, long after the special ended. Most of the ice cream specials are pretty unappetizing and make you want to just order sorbet next time. The Gulf Goo leaves a licorice coating on your tongue that seems resistant to dispersing by drinking water or a chemically enhanced fizzy beverage. The Haitian Horror went bad before the week was out, but there seems to be so shortage of the Rand Paul Praline, since it is not for sale to African Americans. And you have to admire the regional flavor, Mexican Border Mousse being offered in Arizona shops. You need to show your papers before ordering it.

The Evangelical Hypocritical causing-hardly-a-Ripple was supposed to be introduced last week, but given the Republican’s double-standard, no one would have noticed. Mark Souder, who touted family values and abstinence while shtupping a staff assistant resigned and it all caused hardly a headline. He almost got away almost clean. But almost can be a big and unforgiving word. He almost took the path of John Ensign of Nevada, who not only had an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer, but had her husband on his payroll in his senate office. He is still touting the sins of the left to anyone who will listen, like David Vitter, Republican senator from Louisiana, who carried on with a prosty and came on all contrite with his wife (wearing some memorable if a bit in appropriate animal pattern dress) while she did the Tammy Wynette routine. Both he and Ensign are still “serving” in the senate while Representative John Boehmer is trying to conduct hearings on Eric Massa’s improper behavior on a navy ship, after he resigned. The ship has left the dock, tan man, give it up, let it go. Order an ice cream…

The toasted nut topping, Minority Whip has become so popular that customers don’t seem to mind the biting edge it has to it. And Tea Party Toffee is sweeping the country, even though it’s just a mix that has empty calories and a chemical makeup that makes the customers made as hell.

Baskin-Robbins has clearly come up with a winning marketing strategy, as long as the R & D team can keep up with the news, and conjure topical delicacies that the public will go Lady Ga Ga over.

no more, please

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Satan on Ice

I kind of lost interest in hockey when Beautiful Bobby (#4-Bobby Orr) hung up his skates. Back then, I followed them religiously, just like Eddie Coyle*. Beside Bobby, the team had numero sept, Phil Esposito (whose Brother Tony played for the Black Hawks), Johnny "pieface" MacKenzie, womanizer Derek Sanderson and Teddy Green, who had a steel plate inserted in his head. Those were the days. Yeah, I know.

Anyway, Bobby retired. They hung his number up in the rafters. And the game turned all gladiator, best typified by the late great Warren Zevon's song, "Hit Somebody."

My interest has been piqued a bit lately due to the fact that the Bruins are in the playoffs. It's fun to have the Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox all playing at the same time. Like a convergence of pastimes, diverting my attention from oil spills, sunken cities, crazy politicians and an announcement that Sarah has another book coming out.

So I read in the New York Times about this guy on the Bruins. The headline was, "Satan and the Bruins Finding Their Grooves." What? Have the Bruins gone all Satanic on their fans?

Alas, this is the price for not following the game of the puck. Satan's been around. He played for the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins before landing with the Bruins. The New York Times article described Miroslav Satan (from Slovakia... not the netherworld, as one would surmise), "Satan, who has a pointy goatee and arched eyebrows... "

Here's a sample quote from the article, that, taken, even slightly out of context is devilishly funny...

"Bruins center Marc Savard said of Satan: 'I'm sure he wanted to prove something to himself, that he could play again. You always want to prove something to yourself.'

Satan apparently proved something without saying a lot to his teammates."

Evidently, the fans at the Garden are loving having "Miro" on the team. "At the last playoff game in Boston, a white sheet was unfurled that read, 'Satan: Putting goalies through hell since 1993."

The article also pointed out that his last name is pronounced shuh-TAN. Whatever. And the man upstairs is known by many names, too.

*I saw The Friends of Eddie Coyle recently. Aside from some dated aspects of it and awkward scenes, like the ones of Eddie with his wife, the movie holds up really well. Peter Boyle was a hell of an actor. But no one--and I mean no one--conveyed weary and tired like Mitchum. He was one of the best. I loved him as Marlowe and in Out of the Past. Hell, DeNiro didn't come close to his quiet evil in the original Cape Fear. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser!

A curious thing occurred when I went on The Oregonian website, looking for the Gail Collins column they ran in today's paper. It wasn't there. I found it on the New York Times website. In its place, The Oregonian ran a piece by Charles Krauthammer. Hmmm. Below is the Collins piece, followed by the beginning (and last paragraph) of the Krauthammer piece. I couldn't bear to reprint more.

Charleton Heston and an actress bearing a striking resemblance
to Lindsay Lohan with really big hair. He of the big movies and NRA.

Congress, Up in Arms

By Gail Collins
Published: NY Times, May 5, 2010

There seems to be a strong sentiment in Congress that the only constitutional right suspected terrorists have is the right to bear arms.

“I think you’re going too far here,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. He was speaking in opposition to a bill that would keep people on the F.B.I. terrorist watch list from buying guns and explosives.
Say what?

Yes, if you are on the terrorist watch list, the authorities can keep you from getting on a plane but not from purchasing an AK-47. This makes sense to Congress because, as Graham accurately pointed out, “when the founders sat down and wrote the Constitution, they didn’t consider flying.”

The subject of guns turns Congress into a twilight zone. People who are perfectly happy to let the government wiretap phones go nuts when the government wants to keep track of weapons permits. A guy who stands up in the House and defends the torture of terror suspects will nearly faint with horror at the prospect of depriving someone on the watch list of the right to purchase a pistol.

“We make it so easy for dangerous people to get guns. If it’s the Second Amendment, it doesn’t matter if they’re Osama bin Laden,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Graham wanted to make it clear that just because he doesn’t want to stop gun purchases by possible terrorists, that doesn’t mean he’s not tough on terror.

“I am all into national security. ... I want to stop reading these guys their Miranda rights,” he said.

The Obama administration has been criticized by many Republicans for having followed the rules about how long you can question a terror suspect before you read him his rights. These objections have been particularly loud since the arrest of Faisal Shahzad in the attempted Times Square bombing. No one seems moved by the fact that Shahzad, after being told that he had the right to remain silent, continued talking incessantly.

“Nobody in their right mind would expect a Marine to read someone caught on the battlefield their rights,” Graham said.

Terror threats make politicians behave somewhat irrationally. But the subject of guns makes them act like a paranoid mother ferret protecting her litter. The National Rifle Association, the fiercest lobby in Washington, grades every member of Congress on how well they toe the N.R.A. line. Lawmakers with heavily rural districts would rather vote to legalize carrying concealed weapons in kindergarten than risk getting less than 100 percent.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Terrorists and Guns: The Nature of the Threat and Proposed Reforms,” concerned a modest bill sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. It would allow the government to stop gun sales to people on the F.B.I. terror watch list the same way it does people who have felony convictions. Because Congress has repeatedly rejected this idea, 1,119 people on the watch list have been able to purchase weapons over the last six years. One of them bought 50 pounds of military grade explosives.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, dutifully trekked down to Washington to plead for the bill on behalf of the nation’s cities. The only thing they got for their trouble was praise for getting the city through the Times Square incident in one piece. And almost everyone had a good word for the T-shirt vendor who first noticed the suspicious car and raised an alert. Really, if someone had introduced a bill calling for additional T-shirt vendors, it would have sailed through in a heartbeat.

Gun legislation, not so popular.

Lautenberg’s bill has been moldering in committee, and that is not going to change.
“Let me emphasize that none of us wants a terrorist to be able to purchase a gun,” said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who nevertheless went on to argue against allowing the government to use the terrorist watch list to keep anyone from being able to purchase, um, a gun.

“Some of the people pushing this idea are also pushing the idea of banning handguns,” said Graham, darkly. “I don’t think banning handguns makes me safer.”
The terrorist watch list is huge, and some of the names on it are undoubtedly there in error. The bill would allow anyone denied the right to purchase a firearm an appeal process, but that would deprive the would-be purchaser some precious gun-owning time. Before we subject innocent Americans “to having to go into court and pay the cost of going to court to get their gun rights back, I want to slow down and think about this,” said Graham.

Slow is going to be very slow, and the thinking could go on for decades.

Charles Krauthammer--columnist, pinhead

Miranda and public safety
By Syndicated columns
May 07, 2010, 6:00AM

By Charles Krauthammer

"(Law enforcement) interviewed Mr. Shahzad ... under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule. ... He was eventually ... Mirandized and continued talking."
-- John Pistole, FBI deputy director, May 4
All well and good. But what if Faisal Shahzad, the confessed Times Square bomber, had stopped talking? When you tell someone he has the right to remain silent, there is a distinct possibility that he will remain silent, is there not? And then what?

The authorities deserve full credit for capturing Shahzad within 54 hours. Credit is also due them for obtaining information from him by invoking the "public safety" exception to the Miranda rule.

But then Shahzad was Mirandized. If he had decided to shut up, it would have denied us valuable information -- everything he is presumably telling us now about Pakistani contacts, training, plans for (BEG ITAL)other(END ITAL) possible plots beyond the Times Square attack.

... My view is that we should treat enemy combatants as enemy combatants, whether they are U.S. citizens (Shahzad) or not (the underwear bomber). If, however, they are to be treated as ordinary criminals, then at least agree on this: no Miranda rights until we know everything that public safety demands to know.

Spill Baby Spill, continued

Shell to court: We're ready to drill Arctic Ocean
Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Shell Oil is ready to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer and asked a federal appeals court Thursday to rule quickly on a challenge by environmentalists concerned about the risk of a major spill after the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Kathleen Sullivan, an attorney for Shell, said the company has spent at least $3.5 billion on Alaska operations in the past few years as it prepares for exploratory drilling set for July in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

"Shell has waited years to recover its investment," Sullivan told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland. "We're ready to go."

"I'm sure Shell would like to win," replied Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.

Deirdre McDonnell, the attorney for the Native Village of Point Hope in Alaska, the lead petitioners in the case, argued that Shell had not made adequate plans to deal with an emergency, such as a major spill.

The Shell plan, for example, "doesn't say what happens if the drill ship is disabled or has sunk," McDonnell told the judges.
She also said government did not consider the cumulative impact of drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing response efforts in the Gulf, told a recent Senate field hearing in Alaska that oil spill cleanup is "significantly more difficult" in colder temperatures and the region has "limited response resources and capabilities."

© 2010 The Associated Press

Wednesday, May 5, 2010



I flew home from Mazatlan on a Wednesday afternoon. As we approached Los Angeles, the Mexicana plane dropped low over the sea and I caught my first glimpse of the oil spill.

It lay on the blue water off Pacific Point in a free-form slick that seemed miles wide and many miles long. An offshore oil platform stood up out of its windward end like the metal handle of a dagger that had stabbed the world and made it spill black blood.

Sleeping Beauty ©1973 Ross MacDonald

"Ross Macdonald remains the grandmaster, taking the crime novel to new heights by imbuing it with psychological resonance, complexity of story, and richness of style that remain inspiring." --Jonathan Kellerman

"The finest series of detective novels ever written by an American." –– William Goldman

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Tribunal

Lenny Bruce did a routine called “The Tribunal,” where he acknowledged the inequity in a school teacher earning $16,500 a year and Sammy Davis Jr. making $50,000 a week. Bear in mind that is early ‘60’s money. Bruce admitted in the bit that he was not above the lure of the almighty dollar. “If the Fremont Hotel is paying me $50,000 and the Christian Science Reading Room offers me $50,005, I’m in the Reading Room like that (sound of the snap of his fingers). If they’re givin’, I’m grabbin’.” He went on to hypothesize that there was a tribunal he would have to go before to justify the amount of money he made, and said how he had a certain amount set aside for when the time came. The routine is available on iTunes.

I bring this up after looking up how much Rush Limbaugh makes. I will not gild it by saying how much he earns. To my way of thinking he doesn’t earn a dime. He should be paying the broadcasters for letting him into the studio and ranting nonsense for a couple three hours. How he keeps a straight face is beyond me. He’s having way too much fun to be paid. He should be paying for so much fun. At what does he make? Well, his salary is $28 million, which breaks down to 116666 dollars 66 cents a day (according to He’d better have some set aside.

And what exactly does Rush do to make that obscene amount of money? Well, this week he suggested that the ocean would clean itself up after the devastating spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has resulted in a miles-wide oil slick slowly making its way to fisheries and beaches along the coast. According to ABC News, Rush said that “oil in the ocean was a natural phenomenon and as a result the ocean would take care of cleaning itself.

‘You do survive these things. I'm not advocating don't care about it hitting the shore or coast and whatever you can do to keep it out of there is fine and dandy, but the ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and was left out there,’ Limbaugh said. ‘It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is.’

Limbaugh made his comments in a broadcast last Thursday in which he also blamed the oil rig's explosion on an attack by ‘hardcore environmentalist wackos.’

Limbaugh suggested environmentalists attacked the Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by energy giant BP, as way to "head off more oil drilling" and prevent Congress from passing an energy bill that would allow for more off-shore drilling.”

When I wonder how anyone is stupid enough to buy this line of thinking, I remember that Mr. Limbaugh himself refers to his listeners as “Ditto-heads.” By that, I take it he means they don’t process a word he says, they just repeat the words as fact.

Glen Beck actually makes more than Rush (He’s on radio and TV), but at least he freely admits he’s an entertainer… if you call that entertainment.

* * *

But my other favorite overpaid mouth of the Right – Half-Governor Palin – will be called before the tribunal for sure. I have yet to hear a credible argument how a woman who doesn’t read made millions on a book she didn’t write. She went rogue, alright, all the way to El Banco Grande, last year, to the tune of $12 million. Not bad for a woman who has trouble forming sentences and writes reminders on the palm of her hand.

A good reason to miss living in California

While California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican – edging to the left of the president – withdrew his support for offshore drilling, Former Half-Governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, urged continued drilling. She said the spill shouldn’t deter drilling. On her Facebook page yesterday, she expressed sympathy over the accident, while saying she still believes in the slogan “drill here, drill now,” a slight improvement over her Stokely Carmichael-inspired, “Drill Baby Drill.” The woman is a sham artist and deserves none of the press time or attention she gets. I’m as much to blame as anyone. We all slow down for wrecks along the highway.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Atchafalaya Memory

Southern Louisiana–4.1996

Southern Louisiana–4.1996

The Deepwater Horizon spill is working some kind of rear-view mirror mojo on me. I attribute it, in no small part, to have just read James Lee Burke’s Tin Roof Blowdown, his Dave Robicheaux novel revolving around Katrina.

Owing to his wounded protagonist, Officer Robicheaux, his whacked-out long-time pal, Clete Purcell and the nature of the area and the crimes relayed, the books in the series often have a darkness to them. Sometimes, it is a welcome darkness. Other times, it is disturbing and resonant, staying with me like a bad dream I wake up from in the middle of the night. I’m sometimes uncomfortable around Dave, but I do like him and the way he keeps the code. Burke is such a talented and atmospheric storyteller that I have smelled the ion in the pre-rain air over Lake Pontchartrain when he’s described it. The first time I went to Louisiana, I was staying at the Holiday Inn in Metairie. I had just finished the first book in the series, Neon Rain. I saddled up to the bar in the hotel and ordered a Jax. The lady bartender smiled gently at me, showing no sign of judgment. “Darlin’, we haven’t had Jax in twenty years.” Burke led me to believe in the past so much I thought it was the present.

Bea and I went to New Orleans many times during the first half of the ‘90’s. One trip we drove out to Lafayette and stayed a couple nights, out near Breaux Bridge and the Bayou Vermilion. Robicheaux territory. One day, we drove south, through Houma, towards a place I had read about where the freshwater and salt water commingled, creating the tree cemetery. I wanted to shoot some snaps, and try to replicate the spookiness I had seen in others’ photos, where the dead tree trunks rise out of the mist.. I blew it. The mist over the shallow water of the basin in caused by the characteristic humidity. We were there in April, when the air was crisp and there was no mystery at all.

I took some pictures and we wandered further south, coming upon the docked shrimp boats. The season was about to begin and the shrimpers were prepping for the blessing of the boats before heading out to the gulf. I started taking some pics of the boats—one in particular—when someone behind the boat I was photographing asked if he could help me. The man was big and black and big as a house. I was intimidated, feeling I may have been trespassing and about to be warned off. In my fiction-influenced mind, the man reminded me of Batiste, the man that ran the boathouse in some of the earlier Robicheaux novels.

“I was just looking at the boats, taking some photographs.” I said as the behemoth approached me.

“Well, then, let me show you the inside… ”

He gave us a tour of the cramped interior of the boat and then cracked open a photo album. He described the content of the snapshots from previous blessings of the boats ceremonies, turning the pages slowly. He was proud of his blessed boat, and of his independent life, save for his need of the sea—for the shrimp… and the oil.

Morgan City has held a Shrimp & Petroleum Festival for 74 years. This September, will mark the 75th. Time Magazine called it “ …one of the best, most unusual, the most down-home, the most moving and the most fun the country has to offer.” I’m not sure what they will say about this year’s. It may indeed be moving.

(photographs of Southern Louisiana, Capt. Stiff ©Barry Shapiro)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hard Times for the Big Easy, again

I could continue to reprint the AP reports as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill story unfolds. But you can do that, and you probably are. The oil hasn’t stopped spilling into the gulf but the blame game has begun. At today’s count, there are 20 lawsuits pending against Halliburton (sound familiar?) and BP keeps saying they did the right thing, thinking it was (a) nothing (b) containable (c) could never be as bad as it is-- as it gets worse by the minute. Any thought that this is (or will be) an isolated incident is foolhardy and dangerous. There are 4,000 wells in the gulf region. I am not a gambler, but I know enough not to wager on those odds.

I put the above picture up with maybe my first or second blog post. It was in response to Speaker Pelosi advocating offshore drilling. It was a really bad idea then. It is still a really bad idea. The media made a big deal about the first bird to have been salvaged from this spill. It was a northern gannett, found offshore and not on the coast. It is not just a matter of a bird getting dirty that is at issue. The oil coats the birds, preventing them from flying causing them to languish in the cold water, where the chill eventually kills them.

North Gannett being fed Pepto-Bismol

The northern gannett is just one of the hundreds of species of fish and wildlife that are threatened by the spill. This is the birthing season for the roughly 5,000 dolphins along the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts. Estimates of losses in the seafood industry are now around $2-3 billion. One-third of the country’s seafood comes from the area. It’s not just the gulf shrimp. Crabs. Oysters, tuna and other fin fish that are jeopardized, it is the jobs of the hundreds of workers in the industry who will soon find themselves out of work.

But maybe the biggest victim of all is, once again, the City of New Orleans.

Driving out of Louis Armstrong International Airport, you see a sign just before getting on the interstate, “Welcome to New Orleans. The City that Care Forgot.”

It took me a while to understand what that meant. It may have been a city without a care, once. I just can’t think of when that was. A roll through the 9th ward today and you would think Katrina hit a month or so ago. It has a long way to go to resemble the way it was. And the way it was hadn't been all that great.

1927-- Dynamiting the Caernarvon Levee

After Katrina, Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, questioned the rationale behind trying to save New Orleans at all. The place is built below sea level, it’s a crime-infested cesspool, anyway. Let it sink back into the ocean. It wouldn’t have been the first time politicians tried to submerge people and parishes. Randy Newman’s moving ballad, “Louisiana 1927,” tells the story of the most destructive river flood in American history. I personally prefer Marcia Ball’s rendition of the many recordings (see below). Mepmphis Minnie wrote “When the Levee Breaks,” which wsa reworked by Led Zeppelin. Fifteen inches of rain fell in eighteen hours, causing levees to break along the Mississippi in 145 places. According to Wikipedia, “As the flood approached New Orleans, about 30 tons of dynamite were set off on the levee at Caernarvon, Louisiana and sent 250,000 feet of water pouring through. This prevented New Orleans from experiencing serious damage, but flooded much of St. Bernard Parish and all of Plaquemines Parish's east bank. As it turned out, the destruction of the Caernarvon levee was unnecessary; several major levee breaks well upstream of New Orleans, including one the day after the demolitions, made it impossible for flood waters to seriously threaten the city.”

The city survived then. It survived Katrina. But how much can one soul endure? How many tests? To paraphrase Led Zeppelin’s pilfering of Howlin’ Wolf, “How many more times?”

I love New Orleans. I got to know it well in the ‘90’s. I was seduced by the lush heat and oppressive humidity of the summer. The ubiquitous Spanish moss. The magnolia trees. The history and assimilation of so many cultures. The voodoo and the blues, the place where jazz was born and organized crime began in America, (the Black Hand predated the Mafia by years). The music. The art. The literature. And the people. The mystery and the mojo. There is simply no place like it in the country and maybe the world. That is both good and bad. But none of that matters when its very existence is once again, threatened by disaster. The shame of it all is that the damage of Katrina, like that of the floods in 1927, and the imminent damage from the Deepwater Horizon spill were all preventable… were all caused by human beings.

Sadly, I doubt this will be my last word on New Orleans and this unfolding tragedy.