Monday, January 30, 2006

New Orleans Betrayed

The editorial behind the title of this entry from the Washington Post sums up what the current administration is doing to New Orleans.

The editorial follows on the heels of several articles published this weekend, including Post-Katrina Promises Unfulfilled and New Orleans Feels Cast Adrift.

Cast Adrift. Betrayed. Promises Unfulfilled.

I have never felt less of an American. And, Mr. President, you guys in Congress, I don't really care.

I don't really care because, by this time tomorrow, I will be irretrievably committed on the road to coming once again a New Orleanian.

My wife has found us a house, and I'll wire her the earnest money. I will tell my current employer that we're moving. It's done. No turning back.

Whatever it takes, we are committed to New Orleans. We are willing to gamble because we think the whole Bush thing is an aberration, that the American experiment is not a failure, that the campaign of division and fear his party has waged for a generation has not yet destroyed the capability of Americans to respond in defense of their fellow citizens.

We are risking it because we know if you or your successor does not step up to the task, the next hurricane may well take out the port for good, and collapse the Midwest's farm economy, or permanently cut off 25% of the nation's oil supply. Without levees and coastal restoration, it's just a matter of time before the nation is brought economically to its knees. It won't matter then where we live. We might as well be home.

We are going because I've never lost the deepest allegiance I've ever held: to my city. We have always known we were a people different and unique, as divided as we may seem. That sense of identify as a New Orleanian is the powerful bond that draws me on. It is the deep love of country that drives me--of my country, New Orleans and southern Louisiana. It is the irrational emotional attachment to my piece of America that leads men and women to go willingly up Bunker Hill, to follow General Pickett, to volunteer for Iraq.

If you were a real Texan and not a pretender, you might understand. You might know the words to Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues”, the part that goes “'Cause when a Texan fancies,/he'll take his chances, / chances will be taken.” Or perhaps you’d know Guy Clark’s song "L.A. Freeway", especially the chorus: “If I can just get off of this LA freeway Without getting killed or caught I'd be down that road in a cloud of smoke For some land that I ain't bought bought bought.”

But you're no Texan. And you and your chicken-hawk friends have never had to face those sort of decisions, so I don't expect you to understand. A life of assured privilege has protected you from having to take these sort of risks, to find the strength to get up and go into the maw of uncertainty, to risk and gamble your own and not other peoples lives or money. You can pledge allegiance or sing the anthem or give a stirring speech as well as any, but you know you have no allegiance except self-interest.

If nothing moves you except your own self-interest, then consider this.

There are hundreds of thousands of us, scattered throughout most of the United States. We are everywhere you and your party will go to campaign: Arkansas and Atlanta and Austin, Dallas and Detroit and Denver, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Baltimore and Boston, Chicago and Charlotte. Many will remain there indefinitely, unable to go home, precisely because you have lied to them and betrayed them.

We will not let you escape from the net of lies you have woven. Wherever you turn, you will find us, ready to call you out. Vicksburg MS fell to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. The city did not observe the Fourth of July as a holiday again until 1945. We will not soon forget what you are doing. We will not let you or the American people or the world forget either.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

"People in that part of the world..."

"We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help
citizens rebuild their communities and their lives." George W. Bush, in New Orleans Jackson Square, September 15, 2005

How did we get from that speech to the nation in Jackson Square to the press conference of Jan. 26 and this:
"I want to remind people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot," Bush said, referring to money already appropriated by Congress for wide-ranging recovery efforts all along the Gulf Coast. "It's important for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana to work together to develop a state recovery plan."

Fellow NOLA blogger da po' blog takes apart the President's math in this excellent piece. The current generosity includes $18.5 billion in payouts to flood insurance. How generous of him to honor the legally binding obligations of the United States government.

What really bothers me is not their open dishonesty is dealing with us, it's this:
"people in that part of the world..."

Another NOLA blogger Right Hand Thief looks at the President's remarks of Jan. 12 in Mississippi, and finds that particular phrase a lot.

What part of the world is that, George? When did the Gulf Coast cease to be a part of the United States of America?

Because, if that's the way you feel about us, we could just leave, and take the port and the oil and gas, and take care of ourselves very nicely, thank you.

Southern Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular has always cultivated an image of a place apart. Carnival defines us for much of the outside world. Cajun culture and jazz are world-recognized and unique brands. Some other cities may try to claim jazz, but they can't offer the frothy hurricane cocktail of Cajun and Creole cultures and Carnival.

New Orleans in particular has capitalized on this difference. It is the reason that so many people come to visit, and spend their dollars here. There are other colorful southern cities, but they don't draw the big conventions. Who else remembers the Super Bowl in Green Bay, WI, when they built a faux Bourbon Street?

It has also become our downfall. It's too easy for Bush and others all over the nation, in both parties, just to walk away from us, because we are "people in that part of the world". Mayor Ray Nagin's recent remarks reinforced that image, broadcast throughout the nation in September, of a city of poverty-stricken black looters and criminals.

No one will remember a year from now, if they even know it now, that New Orleans was destroyed not by Katrina, but by the failure of the federal levee system built to protect us. They won't remember that people of all races, bank presidents and bus boys alike, suffered and lost everything. They will only remember those images.

To most Americans, we have become just another backward foreign nation in the grip of disaster. Write a check to your favorite charity, and move on.

It's not as if it were your neighbors who died in the thousands when the levees failed. Don't think about the fact that hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens are homeless after the devastation of 23,000 square miles of the United States, an area larger than Maryland and eight other states.

No, think about "people in that part of the world...". Your compassionate Compassionate Conservative in Chief has taken care of everything that matters:

The other thing that happened quickly ... was that the energy sector rebounded unbelievably fast. This part of the world is really important for national security and economic security of the United States of America. Remember when the storms hit, a lot of folks were really worried about the price of crude oil and gasoline.

He's got that part of the world under control, and there's no need to worry about filling up your SUV for your next trip to Mardi Gras. And they've cleared out a lot of "those people" in "that part of the world". So come on down. Its a heckuva place to bring your kids.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Scamming the Baker Bill

When I sat down to check my email and scan the on-line newspapers this morning, I was greeted with this crushing headline:

White House deals blow to Baker "buy-out" plan

WASHINGTON — In a severe blow to state and local plans for rebuilding hurricane-devastated areas, the Bush administration Tuesday came out against a homeowner bailout proposal that many in Louisiana saw as the key to economic recovery and the rebirth of a redesigned New Orleans. Donald Powell, President Bush’s choice to oversee the Gulf Coast recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said that grant money already appropriated by Congress — as much as $6.2 billion for Louisiana — would be “sufficient” to take care of homeowners who suffered the most in the storm.

More here at the Times-Picayune online.

What I originally wrote on the subject I've deep-sixed, after a conversation I had with my wife this morning.

Wife: "So did you see the Times-Picayune this morning?"

Me: [Various scathing comments about the lineage and habits of Bush, Powell, et al. Then, I say...] "Well, that might help us with house shopping. As far as I can see right now, every home in New Orleans that took water gets a starting offer of $1."

Wife: "I could buy 300,000 of those for what a dry house might cost."

The little light bulb didn't go off until about an hour later.

We are being swindled.

Think this through with me: to accept the failure of the Baker Bill would require that the Republican Party--friend to business everywhere--is prepared to see every company that wrote or underwrote mortgages in Louisiana take it in the pants. There would be massive losses, company failures, and significant disruption of the housing market in the United States.

So, class, who thinks that George Bush and the members of Ambramoff's Flying Golf Club in Congress are going to let this happen? No hands? Very good.

Because there is no way they will let that happen. They would have to step in and bailout the mortgage folks at some point, or face the possible collapse of the critical housing market. Exeunt the Bush economic recovery, stage right.

Two things are underway here. First, the Compassionate Conservative in Chief is prepared to allow hundreds of thousands of Louisianians to lose all of their equity and go into bankruptcy. Those folks will then spend the rest of their lives paying out the rest of the mortgage on their ruined homes under the less-than-generous terms of the new bankruptcy bill. He gets paid either way, so that's not a problem. For him.

Later the CCinC will step in to save the home building, mortgage, real estate and related industries by bailing out the mortgage holders. This is perfect consistent with the way the current batch of politicians in Washington like to do things, going back to the Savings & Loan bailout. Remember that one? The average Joe and Jane got there couple of thou' from the FDIC and lost the rest. The people who milked the system for all it was worth got to keep all of their illicit gain.

As if this weren't fun enough, consider my wife's thought this morning. Be prepared to be inundated with calls from helpful people willing to cash you out of your house for dimes on the dollar--of your lot value. When they figure this out (if they weren't in from the beginning), the vultures will no longer be circling. They'll be sitting in the tree over your sorry ass, practicing their four part harmonies and waiting to come in for dinner.

We are being swindled Texas-big, by people who know how its done. Forget fair buyouts. The speculators will flock in and buy up vast tracts of property for next to nothing. When you're done endorsing that paltry check to the mortgage company, the guys in the White Hats (the ones with hats only, no cattle) will jump in and take care of the rest of your mortgage. Well, not the rest of your mortgage. You'll go to your grave owing on that. But the mortgage holders will get theirs. Just you wait and see.

But don't panic. It's hard to get took when the guy standing in the doorway hands you a card that says George W. Texan, Grifter on it.

Before you accept that offer for dimes on the dollar, lot value only, remember: there's no way they're going to let the mortgage people go under. Like all good scams, this one only works if we're willing to play along.

Don't let them get away from it.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Foxes in the Hen House

At length corruption, like a general flood
(So long by watchful ministers withstood),
Shall deluge all; and avarice, creeping on,
Spread like a low-born mist, and blot the sun.
Author: Alexander Pope
Source: Moral Essays (ep. III, l. 135)

Let no one say that most of a degree in English Literature (with a minor in Luigi's) from the University of New Orleans in shall have gone to waste.

Lost in all of the chocolatly excitment this last week were a few stories that bear even more heavily on our future.

First was this USA Today story on our endemic corruption. Like they used to say, you can't buy publicity like this.

It starts out well enough: "Despite its ragged reputation, Louisiana isn't the worst state when it comes to public scandals. In terms of raw numbers of federal public corruption convictions, California, Florida and Ohio are worse."

Then, as the siren of cliche irresitably calls it toward the rocks , we get this:

...For a small state, Louisiana produces a lot of crooked politicians.

Louisiana's historically cavalier attitude about corruption also sets it apart, says Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

In most jurisdictions, public scandals are considered highly embarrassing events, but in Louisiana, he says, they're practically a point of pride.

All of this wisdom eminates from Fred Smith, president of corporate-funded think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. His sole qualification on the subject is that he is a native of New Orleans. His outfit's main proposition is that global warming is a myth.

Be sure to scroll way down in the above link, and wonder n0te the American Petroleum Insitute, ExxonMobil, Texaco ARCO and Cigna are underwriting this nonsense (along with CSX, Dow Chemical and a lot of other people you would hope would have an interest in the recovery of Louisiana in general).

This isn't intended to excuse the Levee Board, the Orleans Parish School Board, or any other political board whose corruption seems clear. This is a real issue, and one the city must address as part of the recovery, or Katrina will just be the latest and largest event in the city's downward slide.

It's a warning that this is more that just an excuse to withold recovery funds. These ultra-free-market groups have close ties to the Bush Administration, and Louisiana makes a terribly convenient scape goat for the same people who brought you FEMA 2005. This coming Congressional election cycle will be dominated by headlines about official corruption in Washington, and they need a convenient distraction.

"Look" I can already hear the cable pundits saying, "everybody does it, and at least we're not Louisiana."

If they can keep the focus on Louisiana, the corruption and looting by the ruling party, (including deep dips into the Gulf Coast recovery funds) will hopefully go unnoticed. It will be almost irresistable to make us the poster child for political corruption, and the conventional wisdom will make it convenient to not approve the Baker bill, or any other relief.

On that point, here is this tidbit burried at the bottom of an AP story on Yahoo! News this week.
At a hearing in Gulfport, senators grilled [Presidential recovery czar] Don Powell...over whether the federal commitment to the Gulf Coast is enough.

"Hopefully it will be enough," Powell said of the money approved so far.

Powell agreed that debris removal, along with temporary housing for evacuees, remain a top priority in Mississippi.
The WBG has covered this ground before. The debris removal contracts were let without bid at a ridiculous rate to close friends and political allies of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. (Albritt, the company involved, had kicked-back $40,000 in payments to Mr. Barbour's political consulting firm. How nice.)

As the New York Times reported in late September:

AshBritt, which has won the biggest share of those no-bid contracts, is being paid about $15 per cubic yard to collect and process debris, federal officials said. It is also being reimbursed for costs if it has to dispose of material in landfills.

[E]xperts have questioned AshBritt's fees. "Let me put it to you this way: If $15 was my best price, I would rebid it," said Mike Carroll, a municipal official in Orlando, Fla., with experience in hurricane cleanup.
In this context, the remarks of the Homeland Security Committee delegation which visited the region this past week seem, well, clueless.

Sen. Susan Collins R-Maine, who chaired the congressional delegation tour that prompted this story, said of the debris removal process "Mississippi still has 19 million cubic yards of debris to be removed, when we saw the mountains of debris in the (New Orleans) Ninth Ward, it underscores the lack of sufficient progress," Collins said. "And it's not a money problem, so that to me is a major obstacle, and I don't understand why we haven't made more progress."
Perhaps Mr. Powell can explain why there is still so much debris, the no-bid, high-dollar contract to Allbritt, the payment to Governor Barbour. He was selected by our honorable President to prevent our corrupt southern ways from overwhelming the recovery efforts.

Yes, he did say of the funds appropriated to date, "he hoped it would be enough". When a banker starts talking in those terms about your downpayment or credit history, it's time to turn the page back from Homes to Apartments. And Mr. Powell is a banker.

Remind me again why it is we're too corrupt to be responsible for our own recovery?


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Rally on the Levee

This from:

Saturday, Jan. 21 there's a "Rally on the Levee" at 11 a.m. in front of the US Army Corps of Engineers facility near the Lambeth House by Uptown Sqaure on River Road (actually the part of River Road occupied by the Corps is called Leake Ave. (I kid you not))., a nonpartisan group, is behind this one.

Come and continue your support for this very important issue. Adequate hurricane protection is a federal issue and will require an intelligent mixture of pumps, levees and coastal restoration. Hold Congress and the US Army Corps of Engineers accountable to this task.

Wear your life jackets and carry your signs.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Talking with the King

When I worked in politics, I would sometimes accompany my candidates to the obligatory Sunday morning stops in the African-American churches of . White bread suits like myself had to wait outside.

I usually spent the church visits smoking a cigarette and leafleting the neighborhood cars, but I always enjoyed sneaking up to the door or an open window and listening to the sermon, as much if not more than I enjoyed the music.

That's why there was nothing terribly shocking in what I heard when I listened to the full speech Mayor Nagin gave on Martin Luther King's birthday.

What Reverend-for-a-day C. Ray Nagin delivered on Jan. 16 was nothing more than a real pulpit pounder, dragging out every trick in the preacher's book from the Old Testament invocation to the imagined conversation with Dr. King to the hell fire bit about God sending the hurricanes to punish us all for our waywardness.

His "chocolate" remark was arguably intemperate. Not inappropriate, not for the crowd he was addressing, or the day he was honoring, or the issues he was speaking to; but in the heat of his remarks, the mayor forgot the broader stage he is forced to strut upon these days, the silent witness of the videographers.

He should have known the chocolate remark would not just be taken out of context; it would be taken out, gotten really drunk and made the subject of all sorts of embarrassing Polaroids. Sadly, that's how politics works in our country these days.

I am a tad disappointed that more people didn't get the Chocolate City reference. I mean, didn't all you other white folks grow up listening to George Clinton's Parliment/Funkadelic? (Get Down With P-Funk and Tear the Roof Off the Sucker!) I mean, it was the 70s, and that stuff sure beat Disco. You didn't? No, he's not related to Bill. Never mind.

But that's the nut, that's the real problem. The reason for the fire storm is that so many white New Orleanians don't comprehend what he was about, have never heard the sort of sermon he was delivering, didn't get the song reference. It was as if much of white New Orleans were reading a bad translation from another language. That the African-American community demands this sort of patronage does it no service either.

The unintended outcome of the speech, both in its religious rhetoric and in it's signature "chocolate" moment, was to rip the scab off of the huge gash that separates New Orleans into separate, warring camps: by race, by section, by church, by income. It's not all Nagin's fault. It's all of our fault, that we measure each other by skin color or the car we drive, or where we park that car on Sunday morning or at night.

As long as we view each other like fellow travelers through a fun house mirror maze, distorted and funny strangers who are just part of the wild carney ride's landscape, we will never make it.

The Bitch didn't care. Her waters came up the MRGO and took the paint-bare, black-eyed-pea shotguns of the Lower Nine the same as it took the Bunny Bread, virgin-in-a-tub brick ranch houses of Chalmette. Claiborne Avenue or Judge Perez drive, they cried and struggled and drowned just the same. The waters that swept up Canal Boulevard and Paris Avenue didn't stop in at the Hibernia to check anybody's balance. They took everyone in their path, no checks accepted.

That is the lesson I wish Reverend C. Ray had imparted, but we shouldn't need him to preach us this. Just look around you. Tell me the difference between the water marks on the houses on Filmore and Florida Avenues. What color are they?

We are so far apart. So many of us just don't get one another, and apparently has done nothing to change that. Instead, we awaken like the statues in the hall of the Ice Queen of Narnia, picking up just where we left off.

Look around you, at the city and at the people. How are we ever going to come together to rebuild if we can't read this text ourselves, and take its lesson to our hearts?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I think she'll stick

At some point in late September, my wife and I were discussing relocating from our home of ten years in the Upper Midwest. We had our reasons and it seemed a good time to make the jump, with both of the kids transitioning schools, my daughter into high school and my son into middle school.

I said, “I want to move back to New Orleans.” I expected her to spit wine all over herself in convulsive laughter. Instead, she gave me a long look, and calmly said, “Yes”. Only last week, when she had been offered and accepted a job, did she tell me why.

In September, a New Orleans jazz group--the Troy Davis Quartet--came to for a Red Cross fundraiser for Katrina relief. Late in the show, the band played "Do You Know What It Means, To Miss New Orleans”, and trumpeter Mark Braud quietly wept between verses.

That was something in that moment, she tells me, when she understood.

She understood why I used to talk about emigrating from New Orleans to the United States, the obsession and anger and occasional weeping of early September, understood the depth of feeling I had harbored for years when I said yes to moving to the Midwest ten years ago.

That’s why she said yes.

We had considered before, when we were living on the East Coast and considering our next move. We wanted to go somewhere with family, so the choices were really North Dakota and New Orleans. My wife had visited New Orleans, of course. And ten years in Washington, D.C. had introduced her to the concept of sweltering summers. New Orleans weather was no worse that DC's, I told here. There was just more of it.

I should have stopped after the first sentence.

Then there’s the bugs. My wife and daughter seem to have forgotten their last run in with the Giant Mutant Cockroaches of New Orleans. My wife had a room at a Warehouse District hotel while we vacationed around her conference in 2004, and the kids joined us for one evening at the pool there.

"Kill it, kill it" they shriked like B-movie heroines cornered by The Thing. It was just one cockroach, but it became the focus of my entire evening. My first impulse, of course, was to stomp it. However, after years away from doubloon and cockroach stomping my reflexes weren't what they once were. So instead, I relied on my new North Dakotan instincts and resorted to cockroach herding, until I chased it safely under a garbage can lid.

The crazed spider web of streets in New Orleans can be a bit of a challenge for someone used to the obsessive grids of the heartland and the rigid order of L'Enfant's District of Columbia. "How can you people drive down here," she asked me once while visiting. "You're all over like cockroaches on toast." I love to remind her of the time she said that, because there was something incredibly southern about that turn of phrase. But telling her that didn't help.

All of those reasons, and more--the failing schools and limited professional opportunities--contributed to her desire and our mutual decision to move west rather than south ten years ago. But now, we’re coming home.

Post-K New Orleans will be different, a challenge immensely greater than those inconveniences we reviewed ten years ago. I've done nothing to sugar coat the difficulties, as we discuss whether the gang bangers will return, what we will do about schools, where and how we will live, whether there will be levees that make it safe.

I haven't been home yet, but Rebecca's new boss gave her the lakefront disaster tour, and I'm glad they made that trip. My sister brought her back from the airport to the Quarter via I-610 and Elysian Fields, where just months ago rescue boats were launched. I want her to see and understand the scope of the challenges the city faces, and that we face.

I know she is up to the challenge, and knowing that gives me the strength to face it. I know she is up to it because she's from North Dakota.

Fargo is a hard place to live even at the turn of the millennium. The weather is almost unimaginably cold, and is relieved come April, by months of a spring so wet and chilly I call it "my second winter", my New Orleans winter. If I think it's difficult sitting in my dual-heat house, looking out the window at my all wheel drive vehicle, imagine the people who settled here over a hundred years ago.

The treeless winterscape didn’t shock the ubiquitous Scandinavians who first settled here. Imagine living like them: in a sod house, burning turf and the odd lump of soft-lignite coal to survive a place where a trip to the barn can kill you. My daughter read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. In fact, we started out reading them to her. They don't do the place justice.

Some early settlers were less well acclimated to the frightening climate. The displaced Irish and German Catholics who came to New Orleans also scattered across the rest of the United States, and many landed here. These people knew winter, but they didn't really know its full potential until the first snows of October, and the blizzards of January.

Those Irish and German settlers were the descendents of people who drew the line from Eire to the Elbe beyond which the once invincible Roman Legions could not pass. They were the people who came to America and died in the thousands building the railroads west (and digging the New Basin Canal). They were among those who came to North Dakota, and stayed.

They were some tough folks.

When I first arrived in this region, people would ask me if I'd driven into the ditch yet (and if I'd changed the summer air out of my tires). They wondered behind my back if I'd stick. (Snow "sticks" if it doesn't blow away first or quickly melt.) What they meant was, did I have what it takes to make it here?

I stuck. I got a pair of snowshoes from a friend, bought warm clothes, and learned to venture out on a beautiful 10-above day for the sheer joy of it. But for the first few years, before I embraced my new home, I did it for love.

If anyone in New Orleans wonders if my wife will stick (to anything other than her car seat), I tell them yes. Think of any cliché you'd like: jaws of death, mouth of hell, whatever. Not only would this hardy North Dakotan follow me, like the pioneer stock she comes from--she's leading me.

She's there already.

Yeah, if she can do that, I think she'll stick.

N.B.--I felt bad when some parts of the piece I wrote for today's Times-Picayune talking about Rebecca's decusion to support our move to New Orleans fell on the editing room floor, so I wrote this up to accompany it. Thank you to the Op-Ed staff at the T-P for publishing the column.

Have Beret, Will Travel

Republished from the Times-Picayune, where this originally appeared on Jan. 17. The following piece "I think she'll stick" incorporates matterabout my wife's decision that fell on the floor while getting down to 700 words.

Expat ready to hang his hat here again
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Mark Folse
In Fargo, N.D., I'm practically an eccentric, largely because I wear a hat. OK, a beret. And in the summer, I hang that up and take out my Panama. In Fargo, that qualifies as eccentric. But I have a ready excuse: I'm from New Orleans. And now, I'm coming back.

I tell people that my family and I are moving back to the city where I grew up, and they give me this look. Why, they ask incredulously, would I leave a place with great public schools, where my house cost half what it would in New Orleans, where people -- I am told -- would never behave like those people on TV? Why would I go to the devastation and division and uncertainty of New Orleans? They look at the beret, and shake their heads.

I'm coming home because of that beret, the one my wife got me to replace one I wore for years, then lost. That cap belonged to my father who hoped to wear it in retirement, hanging his paintings on the fence at Jackson Square, until Parkinson's stole his dream.

But he was not just an amateur artist with a dream; he was a prominent local architect. Most of his commercial, highly specialized work was done far away, but he left his mark on the city: the Rivergate, Cabrini Church, the striking flat-roofed box of brick and glass on Egret Street in Lake Vista, where I grew up.

Near the peak of his career, as president of the New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Architects, he was a leader in the fight against the riverfront expressway. Although his firm had important public contracts including the Superdome, he stood up against the city's political and business leadership, challenging the head of the downtown business community to debate him on television. He loved New Orleans, and was willing to stand up and try to save it. He wanted that dream place to hang his pictures, stroke his goatee and be part of the soul of the city.

Now I am at a point in life where one begins to think about a legacy. Beyond a couple of practically perfect children, what mark if any will I leave? Even from the safety of 1,200 miles and two decades, Katrina upended my world and answered my question.

What I want to leave behind me, to leave to my children, is New Orleans.

So last week, my wife accepted a job offer in the city. And we're coming home, with all that entails: finding a safe and affordable house, dealing with the fractured schools, finding a job for me and leaving a safe and comfortable life in the Midwest for the only life I really want, the only one I think worth living for the rest of my days.

We are coming home not just to find an old home and make it live another generation, or because I miss the food and the friends, the music and the parades, or because I want my children to partake of all that.

I want those things, I always have, but the challenge after Katrina is too large for such a simplistic dream.

I'm coming home because I see all of the devastation and division and uncertainty and think, there must be something I can do to make this better. I'm coming back because I see the city's leaders on the verge of losing the treasure, just as they nearly did 30 years ago. But this time it's not just the Quarter. It's the whole city.

I'm coming back because every person who returns makes it that much more possible -- to buy a house that would otherwise sit empty, to add another pair of hands to the immense tasks ahead.

We're returning because I owe it to my father's memory, to my family and to my city. I'm doing it for the friends who've lost houses, jobs, everything, and can't come back right now, to help prepare the city for their return.

The task is so huge; it seems that it's impossible to know where to start.

But that's not true. For us the first step is clear.

We're coming home.

. . . . . . .

Mark Folse lives in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at his blog, Wet Bank Guide, at


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Let a thousand charettes bloom

I have held off posting until now about the Bring Back New Orleans Commission's report, in part because its a lot to digest, and also because I had incredibly mixed feelings about it. There is so much to agree with, even as the four month moratorium makes a potential mess of my own need to find a home in .

A number of other bloggers have already spoken eloquently. Read V-R Matri's VatulBlog's "We Aren't Pompeii" on Metroblogging New Orleans. Polimom's "ENOUGH Already" strikes the right note as well. The 34 megabyte power point presentation has been condensed to six megabytes, courtesy of Chris Martel on Metroblogging New Orleans, here.

The article in today's Times-Picayune covers the "emergency meeting" convened by District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell for her constituents in Gentilly and New Orleans East, with more remarks from Broadmoor residents angry at being redlined, seethed with anger, but avoided the easy lapse into race-baiting.

That's a good start, because what's happening now is not about race. Everything about the post- city is about money.

First, the city doesn't have any. The tax base is ravaged, and the federal government has sent a former banker down to make sure we don't squander the little bit we get. And a great deal of power has shifted to the Capitol in Baton Rouge, a place never terribly sympathetic to New Orleans.

There has to be something that looks like a workable plan in place, and the Commission's work is a start. The challenge is, what to do about the people already returning to areas red-lined for possible redevelopment or conversion to green space in the plan?

Take the case of Lakeview, only rated A3/1.5" by the old FEMA maps, but as much as 10 feet below sea level. Many residents are back and renovating their homes. Should they be allowed to continue? Lakeview was safe for fifty years until a variety of bad decisions led to the collapse of the federal levees. If so, should the residents of Gentilly be allowed to proceed on their own higher elevations? What about New Orleans East, which sits much lower than Lakevkew?

Residents of Broadmoor were also quoted liberally in the T-P story. This neighborhood is even a bigger challenge. One of the lowest points in the city's interior, it was settled for over 100 years (and experienced rain-driven flooding in the past). Residents there, like those in Lakeview, are returning in increasing numbers and repairing their homes.

It is also inside the levee system, the railroad embankment that bisects the north end of the city, and the Gentilly/Metairie ridge line. In spite of its elevation, its central location would indicate it is an area that can and should be protected.

The future of any neighborhood in New Orleans depends on a number of variables which can't be worked out just yet, beginning with repairing the U.S. Amry Corps of Engineer's defective levees. Then there is the issue of what the new FEMA flood plain maps will look like, what elevations reconstruction might have to meet. And there is the issue of compensation for losses above the flood insurance cap of $250,000, or for homeowners above the old FEMA flood maps lines who did not have insurance.

Much of the anger at the BNOB Commission plan is directed at the proposed four month moratorium on construction permits. The plan proposes that there be a time-out while the residents of all areas of the city decide if their neighborhoods can meet a target of 50% repopulation. People who have returned and are arleady rebuilding their neighborhoods, even with the uncertainty about the defective Federal levees and the city's future, want to know why they should stop.

Four months is an incredibly long time to ask someone who's already back to wait to start repairs. Time is critical for the city (disclaimer: and for my own need to find a house in New Orleans). I don't know that anyone who is back or is actively preparing to return should have to wait that long. And will those who have already secured permits be allowed to continue, while the later arrivals sit by and watch?

But the idea behind the moratorium, that the residents of each neighborhood make their own decision about their area's future, is a wonderful expression of democracy. All of the money people and all of the starry-eyed planners looked at the problem for months, and finally threw up their hands. They couldn't decide what to do about the working middle-class of the Ninth Ward or the better off people in Lakeview busily rebuilding their flooded homes.

They're going to let the people figure it out, with a focus on the people who've made it back. While people still stranded in Atlanta and Houston are going to have a well-justified fit about it, these are the people on the ground. They're your friends and neighbors. You're going to have to trust them.

If they're back, it's because your neighborhood has a fighting chance. If virtually none of you are back, then there's a good chance your neighborhood is not coming back any time soon. I'm sorry, but it's true.

The entire moratorium/charette process is also the most democratic way to come up with a plan based on people's true intentions. If you're prefer to have Joe Canizaro decide if you can come back and where you can live, that's fine. I'd rather not.

Democracy has not always been our friend in New Orleans. Hell, the Orleans Parish School Board is an elective body, located in the state that loved Edwin Edward's act. This process is something different. It is direct democracy; the citizens in the agora deciding their personal fate. Direct democracy is potentially dangerous, but at the scale of a neighborhood and a smaller city, it is probably the best outcome for this tremendous decision.

Better yet, once the neighborhood reconstruction meetings are over, let's turn the attention of every citizen to all of these issues, especially the schools. All of Algiers has already suceeded from the Orleans Parish School Board, and other schools are following suit. Lets move to turn all of the schools over to the parents. Then lets discuss whether Entergy's abandonment of New Orleans isn't an opportunity to expropriate their grid, and turn Entergy New Orleans into a a customer-owned co-op.

Let a thousand charettes bloom.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A heckuva place to bring your family

Mr. Bush, you let me down. You let us all down.

In my last post, I hoped that your chief-of-staff's quoted remarks indicated you really didn't know what was going on in and on the Gulf Coast in general. I hoped that exposure to the reality on the ground would move your heart and lead to a change in policy.

Instead, you chose to act out the lines from Louisiana 1927 about President Coleridge and the "little fat man" newspaper reporter.

I guess, like the Grinch, your heart is two sizes too small. That, or nobody in local leadership made a point of grabbing you by the collar and dragging you to Lakeview or Waveland and saying "what the heck are you going to do about this." I'm not sure heck is the word they would use, but you get the idea.

To review Mr. Bush's visit, let's start first with the Times-Picayune's headline on the subject:

"President avoids endorsing Baker bill"

Here's Mayor Ray Nagin's account of the closed door meeting, from today's T-P:
Nagin, who attended the powwow and sat on the president's left, said Bush remains skeptical about the [Baker] bill in its current form. Nagin said the president's doubts center on the legislation's ultimate price tag, and on the unprecedented federal involvement in a local matter Baker's plan may represent.
Mr. Bush apparently doesn't believe that the people in Louisiana who lost everything--far beyond the coverage of even reasonably prudent insurance--should received even 60 cents on the dollar. I can just hear his signature, telegraphic delivery in my head. "Nope. No can do. Too expensive." Instead, the survivors will all likely be forced into the tender mercies of the new bankruptcy bill. To paraphrase his father: "Message: Your life is ruined, and I get paid either way."

As for the "unprecedented federal involvement in a local matter," I noticed that neither Louisiana nor North Dakota were attacked on 9-11. I'd like you to explain why we should have to send sons and daughters into harm's way for for that horrific "local matter". I'd like to know why the Congress rushed through a generous aid package for the direct victims of 9-11 in that local matter.

Then, there's the T-P's second headline, part of which reads: "[Bush] remains coy on Catagory Five levees."

Wonderful. Just what we all needed to hear. Thanks for coming. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Finally, the Prez left us one of his inscruitable bits of folk wisdom. "It's a heck of a place to bring your family." (The Associated Press, I noted, rendered this as "heckuva", as in this post's headline.

I know the President thinks a double entendre is something he once had too many of at Pat O's, but I think anybody who cares enough about New Orleans to be reading this wouldn't miss this one, even if they'd knocked back half-a-dozen flaming faux pas.

Mr. Bush, my wife leaves for New Orleans on Sunday. We are trying to lineup schools, housing prospects, all of the necessities of life in New Orleans. My wife toured Lakeview with her new boss before she accepted the job. We know exactly what kind of a place it is to bring one's family right now.

We're coming anyway.

Thanks for all your support.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lower Whose Expectations?

I hate to scare off readers by appearing partisan (I am, but I try to keep it in check). However, this line from an AP story this morning disturbed me:
"I had to manage his expectations this morning, because while there has been great progress, there continues to be great need--indescribable need," White House Chief of Staff Andy Card was quoted as saying of President Bush's trip to the Gulf Coast.

[Sigh]. And then there is this, from the same article: "Bush hasn't been to the coast since a trip to Louisiana and Mississippi Oct. 10-11.."

So, the greatest devestation of property the United States has seen since Sherman marched to the sea--23,000 square miles, hundreds of thousands still homeless--and the president isn't really aware what's going on. That's what I take away from that.

What's not clear is, ultimately, whose expectations will be lowered, Mr. Bush's or ours.

I've been pretty harsh on Mr. Bush in these postings. If you disagree with my assessment of the President, I encourage you to leave a comment rather than leave in a huff, but anyone concerned enough about to be reading this blog should find these notes disturbing. Strangely, I find them in one way encouraging

Perhaps it was just White House idealogues who oppose spending government money on just about anything vetoed who the Baker Plan on principle, rather that out of spite. Maybe George doesn't know the December relief bill gave Mississippi five times as much aid per impacted househould than Louisiana. If he doesn't then there is always some hope.

Some advice George: I think the judgement of history is not running too strongly for you on Iraq. And I would not want to be remembered a hundred years from now as the President who turned his back on hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens and neighbors at their greatest time of need.

Quick, tell me something Hoover did besides let the country slide into the Great Depression? (Hint, he may have had his picture taken, but I don't think he did a whole lot of actual shovel work on the dam, so the judges rule that one out in advance). Grant won the civil war, but is looked back on as one of our worst presidents.

Perhaps this visit will re-open the Presidents eyes, and bring a turn-around in the attitude of the White House and Congressional Republicans. If not, we will know that we have been abandoned by our countrymen.

I have little faith in the supremely corrupt leadership of the Congress. I will hold out a small bit of christian hope, faith and charity that the president means what he says at a very high level, and when he is confronted with the reality, he will brush aside the idealogues and carreerists around him and see that something is done.

Go ahead Mr. President. Prove all the things I've said about you in the past are wrong. Nothing could make me happier.

Editor's Note: I have studiously avoid the use of the word "we" in this blog, because I currently live in Fargo, N.D., and have for almost a decade. However, we are coming home. My wife has accepted a job, and will be on the ground in days. I will follow with the children in June. The postings on this blog have never been an intellectual exercise for me; they have been torn from my heart, some of them written while weeping in the early days of September. If there is any change of tone accompanying the adoption of "we", it is because I am coming to find a house, to put my kids in school somewhere, to put myself voluntarily into the middle of the after-storm. From now on, you can forget all of that high-blown "the people of New Orleans" stuff here. From now on, it will be we and us and I.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Mayor's Commission Gives Up

The New York Times reports today that the winning plan for the reconstruction of New Orleans is the Cannizzaro "let God sort them out" approach.

The plan, scheduled to be released Wednesday, "will recommend that residents be allowed to return and rebuild anywhere they like, no matter how damaged or vulnerable the neighborhood, according to several members of the mayor's rebuilding commission."

The leaders of --presented with an enormous challenge requiring clear vision and strong leadership--have punted. Even if there is a secret plan underneath all this (it would be simple; the city doesn't issue construction permits in the hardest hit areas, putting those people in a Catch-22), it still is a complete failure of leadership, no an abdication of leadership, by Mayor Ray Nagin and his commission.

I think the respected Bureau of Governmental Research, an independent goverment watchdog cum think tank, I think hits the right note in their response:
"There are some very tough decisions that have to be made here, and no one relishes making them," said Janet R. Howard, chief executive of the Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit policy organization based in New Orleans. "But to say that people should invest their money and invest their energies and put all their hope into rebuilding and then in a year we'll re-evaluate, that's no plan at all."

Part of the Canizaro "plan" involves promises to pay out a full pre- values for people who chose to rebuild in areas that are subsequently abandoned. Think about that. The people who can afford to rebuild on their own terms will be rewarded with a full price payout. Those who can't will get bankruptcy and a prayerful best wishes from President George (who blocked even a 60% payout under the Baker plan in the wanning days of 2005).

Canizaro plan calls envisions that "the market, and not planners, would determine which neighborhoods would come back." Yes, the market that provided sub-standard housing and schools and jobs to hundreds of thousands, the market that has made post-Hugo Charleston, S.C. a rich and empty vacation ghetto, the market that has left thousands of Floridians stranded in FEMAville trailer parks with no affordable place to live.

I believe the Canizaro and his peers, people I called the Knights of the Invisible Hand months ago on this blog, understand what they are doing. Their own class, those who can afford to come back on their own terms, will be allowed, even encouraged. Those people who lost everything will be left out. And we all know who "those people" are.

I don't think the Knights are racist. I do think they are very class conscious, and want the right "class" of people to come home. I agree, to some extent. Nobody wants the gang-bangers back. But the city will continue to depend on tourism as an economic mainstay, and I find nothing in the NYT trial balloon article that says where the people who staff that industry will live, how they will come back.

Perhaps the plan for "those people" is what I always feared it would be, a Gaza-strip solution of housing necessary but "undesirable" workers in controlled FEMAville trailer compounds.

The dirty little secret is, there is no plan for most people, at least not at the rarified levels where Mr. Canizaro moves. The plan is to let the "free market" determine who can come back and who cannot. That is the Jimmy Reiss plan of September, the one I quoted out of the Wall Street Journal back in September:
The new city must be something very different, Jimmy Reiss, head of the New Orleans Business Council Reiss told the Wall St. Journal, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a complete different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

A great way to build bridges and consensus, Jimmy. You're right up there with the people standing with bullhorns blocking the removal of rubble--those aren't homes anymore, its rubble--from the Ninth Ward. People who are demanding a return to a status quo ante bellum are delusional; those who want to use the aftermath as part of some vast project of social re-engineering or ethnic cleansing are scary.

What we need are leaders not just politicians.

We are coming home. I will be there by June at the latest. These issues are no longer an abstract exercise in on-line polemics. And this Canizaro "plan" is unacceptable. Sadly, I won't be back in time for the spring elections. But I know that the current leadership has proved unequal to the task before them.

What was really needed was a strong and compassionate outside hand, somebody to lead the people of New Orleans through the post-K desert and into the promised land, someone of impeccable credentials. I remember when Collin Powell's name was bandied about. He would have been perfect. What President George gave us was a banker, to make sure we didn't spend foolishly the few dollars he tossed us like rare doubloons from Rex's pages.

We are on our own, and our current leadership has failed. We need new leaders, who will not be afraid to stand up to President George and publicly humiliate him and the Congress before the world until we get what is needed and deserved; who will not be so timid they cannot stand up to those who stand in the Ninth Ward and shout "racism" so loud it can be heard amid the complete and total wreckage of lilly-white St. Bernard; who will have what it takes to tell their peers in Lakeview and New Orleans East and Gentilly: wait, stop. We are not ready to rebuild her yet.

I move that nominations be opened.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The New Gulf Coast Mafia

In a piece from today's New York Times on Baton Rouge GOP Rep. Richard Baker's plan for housing aid in , is buried this interesting tidbit:
The passage of the bill has become increasingly important to Louisiana because the state lost out to the greater political power of Mississippi last month when Congress passed a $29 billion aid package for the Gulf states region. The package gave Mississippi about five times as much per household in housing aid as Louisiana received - a testimony to the clout of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Senator Thad Cochran, chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Yeah, you read that right. Mississippi got five times as much aid per household as Louisiana.

Not surprising. Haley is a man of some influence.

As posted here at the end of September from a September NYT article, Mr. Barbour and his friends have been cashing in on the distress of their neighbors since days after Hurricane struck.
AshBritt, which has won the biggest share of those no-bid contracts, is being paid about $15 per cubic yard to collect and process debris, federal officials said. It is also being reimbursed for costs if it has to dispose of material in landfills.

[E]xperts have questioned AshBritt's fees. "Let me put it to you this way: If $15 was my best price, I would rebid it," said Mike Carroll, a municipal official in Orlando, Fla., with experience in hurricane cleanup.

According to Senate filings, AshBritt paid about $40,000 in the first half of 2005 to Barbour Griffith & Rogers, the Washington lobbying firm co-founded by Governor Barbour..."

Maybe Mr. Barbour was feeling a bit guilty about soaking his own people, but I'm sure carrying away most of the only real new money in the $29 billion aid packge will assuage his conscience.

Having the appropriations committee chair doesn't hurt, either.

Forget the Marcellos. There is a new Gulf Coast Mafia. It's Haley and Jeb and all their bunch. Why drag President-in-Waiting and royal brother Jeb Bush into this? Well, as we reported way back on Sept. 20, FEMA treated the people of Florida differently after their hurricane experience of 2004. But then, that's family, you know. That's blood. You've gotta take care of your own.

Explain to me again why these people are going around suggesting is too corrupt to be entrusted with its own rebuilding?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The $29 Billion Lie

Area media mostly rejoiced to see some aid pass for and the greater Gulf Coast in the waning days of the 2005 Congressional session. The $29 billion attached to the Defense Appropriations bill was presented as a first step toward Bush's promised aid for reconstruction.

Most of the Times-Picayune's article on final Senate passage focused on the failure to secure an additional $6 billion for levees, which was tied to passage of a controversial rider to approve drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Reserve or ANWAR.

The real story was missed. As reported by Reuter's news wire:
Most of the money would come from previously approved emergency funds and will be spent on rebuilding broken levees, providing seed money for economic development and reconstructing schools and infrastructure following last summer's Hurricane Katrina and two subsequent storms.

BizNewOrleans ran an AP story also highlighting how the $29 billion aid package would siphon off existing Katrina relief funds, away from survivors and into reconstruction aid packages. The DeRidder-Beauregard Daily News also ran this story, but I didn't see it in the T-P.
A massive package of federal aid for Hurricane Katrina victims would come mostly from a dwindling FEMA disaster fund, leaving agency officials wondering today whether they will need more money to help storm evacuees beyond next spring.

Noted Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant final piece, published Dec. 22, is headlined "The disaster is in the response". In his swan song, he takes up the issue of the alleged $29 billion in aid.
"...the number turns out to be a fraud. In fact, it represents the allocation of large sums of money that Congress has already appropriated. More precisely, much less than half of it -- about $11.5 billion -- is what they call ''new" grant money. The rest is simply the result of the reshuffling of already appropriated sums.

Perhaps you recall the atmosphere in September in the immediate aftermath of the horror that Katrina wreaked. Within three weeks, Congress had passed, and Bush had signed into law, roughly $62 billion in appropriations to pay for the massive cleanup.

The horrendous damage caused by the hurricane should have produced a reallocation of national priorities sufficient to pay for a sensible reconstruction plan. Instead there is no plan, just more federal government blue smoke and mirrors leaving millions of people to beg each year for budgetary table scraps.

As Oliphant reports, of the original $62 billion in aid appropriate by Congress, only about one-third had actually been spent. Portions of that were repackaged to make up 60% of the December aid package.

The new money is largely the $11.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants, with $6.2 billion slated for Louisiana. The money would be funneled through the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which pledged Dec. 23 to spend it on three to major areas in which to distribute the money: economic development, housing and infrastructure.

I interpret that to mean it will go to anyone but storm victims. There was discussion immediately after that Entergy New Orleans, the bankrupt utility, would try to claim hundreds of millions of that to rebuild the city's utilities. The parent company of Entergy, which has been perfectly happy to harvest the profits of doing business in New Orleans, refuses to spend a single-penny on reconstruction.

It is increasingly clear to any rational person that Bush lied in his televised national speech about reconstructing the Gulf Coast. He and his cronies are not intereted in reconstructing the Gulf Coast any more than they were interested in democracy or reconstruction for Iraq. They're only in it for the money, for themselves and their fat cat friends.

It was Mr. Bush who blocked the last minute chances of the proposal by Baton Rouge GOP Rep. Richard Baker, which would have provided a 60% buyout of ruined homes, with the owner receiving 60% of equity, and the mortgage holder accepting 60% of the mortgage's value as payment in full.

Baker originally announced the White House would back his bill. But he told the NOLA Times-Picayune Dec. 21 that the White House withdrew its support when it became apparent the bill might past.

Without this legislation, hundreds of thousands of homeonwers on the Gulf Coast will be left to the tender mercies of the new, credit card company sponsored bankruptcy "reform" bill. It will mean they will ultimately be forced to pay out most if not all of the value of their mortgages on their ruined properties.

Just another example of compassionate conservatism.

Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies.

But you know what they say (or at least what George says):
"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again.

Yeah, George, whatever.

OM Sri Ganeshaya Namah

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About five year ago, I was in a software project kick-off meeting, and the facilitator asked us the question "How do you eat an elephant?" It's an old saw from project management (The answer: one bite at a time).

But before the intervening four years had passed, the elephant had become our mascot, the symbol of his massive undertaking. Over time, the generic elephant grew in significance, and became Ganesha.

How did Ganesha come to be our patron? Somewhere along the way, while searching for elephant images, I discovered Ganesha. He is, among many other things, the god figure one invokes at the start of great undertakings. Um, let's see. Three to four year time line, $10 million budget, uncounted requirements and design documents and lines of code. Yep. One major undertaking.

And so, Ganesha became the patron of the Consumer Loan Imaging Re-engineering/Automated Loan Processing System.

Now, I want to apologize to anyone who feels that a guy baptised at St. Dominic and confirmed at Pius X, a guy who counts himself a Catholic school survivor (Pius, Christian Brothers, De la Salle '75), that such a guy has no business appropriating your (or any body else's) gods.

It started off innocent enough, and we always meant well. And that multi-year, multi-million project succeeded. If you know anything about the software industry, you know that constitutes a miracle more surely than does the Virgin Mary appearing on a piece of toast.

The Ganesha statue no longer graces my office. It was only mine temporarily. It was bought as a present for my boss the project manager. When she left the bank, she left it (temporarily) in my care, in the small shrine-like corner table containing the desktop zen garden and lucky bamboo, in the corner where stands my elephant-headed walking stick from Africa.

And as it sat there in the quiet corner, no major milestone of the project passed without offering Ganesha a rice krispy bar. Ganesha has a thing for sweets, in particular for a certain sort of sweetened rice ball, but I substituted rice krispy treats from the Wheel of Death vending machine. (I can almost hear the devout mobs gathering at my door with torches, shouting "rice krispy bars!", but please know this: I only meant well.)

When the project was over, I returned the statue to my friend, and whispered as it left the office Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah.

But still, when we are about to reach another project's large milestone, I ask my Hindu friend and colleague Yasmin in St. Paul to say a little prayer to Ganesha for our success. And she does.

So where the hell, you might ask, is he going with this?

Today, my wife boarded an airplane in Fargo, N.D., bound for a job interview.

In . New Orleans post-.

I can't think of any larger undertaking, or any thing more in need of good luck, than the decision of an upper Great Plains girl who ten years ago said "no" to New Orleans, to turn aound and--now of all times--yes. I can't think of any greater challenge than jobs, a home, schools for the kids, all of the things that would have to come together to make a move back to New Orleans possible

So as I type, a picture of Ganesha sits behind me on a table. On a plate are two Butter Toffee Rice Cakes. I'm sorry, Ganesha, but its the best I can do on short notice in Fargo, N.D.

OM Sri Ganeshaya Namah.

So, if you find your way to my blog today, please join me for a second. You don't have to be a devotee of anything in particular. If anything, I think an upbrining in the Saint-obsessed Catholic church probably helps. I think in the end you only need be sincere.

So, if you choose to join me:

For Rebecca to find a job.

For Mark to find a home in New Orleans for his wife and kids.

For Killian and Matthew to find schools and new friends to carry them through the second decade of their lives.

OM Sri Ganeshaya Namah.


P.S.--Dear St. Jude, I promise to make sure Rebecca puts that ad in the paper this time...

"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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