New Orleans Has No Future:
Once he drove around and walked the haunted, empty streets of New Orleans, the Rude Pundit lost all hope for the city. When, just a couple of weeks ago, he went through two of the most devastated neighborhoods, Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward, he expected to see construction crews and clean-up crews and road crews every few blocks. What he saw was sporadic house-gutting and even more sporadic construction and only one actual city road crew.
It is often said (at least on TV) that the first 24-48 hours after a crime are the most important in being able to solve a case. That after the initial rush of information, things slow to a trickle, other cases come in, evidence becomes harder to find. What about in the coming years after Hurricane Katrina? If the first year after the storm didn't become punctuated by a massive reconstruction operation, when will it happen? Or, as it seems, will it just be haphazard until someone Trump-like finally says, "Enough. Give it to me"?
Sheriff Jack Stephens of St. Bernard Parish probably spoke for most of America when he said this morning on CNN, "We feel like we've been let down again. That we think that Mobile, Alabama, Gulfport, Mississippi, Biloxi, Long Beach, Waveland, Ocean Spring, Slidell, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, New Orleans, Calcasieu, Cameron are all worth more than Baghdad."
Just like every visit to the Gulf Coast by President Bush stinks of flop sweat and desperation, of trying to overcompensate for his aloofness and absence early in the crisis, every year that passes after this one may have feints at making things better, but, like all those feckless visits, very little of worth will occur. Besides, inevitably, the next disaster will come along, perhaps the next war, and that initial momentum will be a distant memory as we try to learn to care about someplace else.
No, today's episode of bloggery is not a funny little monkey post. It's not even particularly insightful or rude. It's just sad. Because New Orleans is gone, man, gone, as are so many little towns around it. It's gone because of the bureaucratic nightmare and rank incompetence on every level of government, because of the war-tightened/tax-slashed purse strings of the federal government, because of groups of people in New Orleans who are clinging to a hope of renewal that won't come and are preventing progress even at the edge of a bulldozer, because no one wants to build on what's still there, because there is no genuine will in a government that sees private enterprise and charity as the leaders in rebuilding, entities that are, for the most part, unaccountable to anyone.
The anniversary is done. In the coming year, for New Orleans, more people will move away; opportunists, good and bad, will move in; those who can afford the contractors whose prices have skyrocketed past what meager insurance and federal assistance has offered will rebuild homes so that the best blocks will be checkerboard neighborhoods; crime will rise; the poor will be told to be happy in their trailers; water and electricity will still be unavailable to many places. At some point, someone in the EPA will admit that, yes, the ground, the water are contaminated.
None of these predictions is awfully daring. They're pretty mundane. But they're nauseatingly probable. If you've ever experienced the steady glare of the Louisiana sun, you know that despair is just a sweat drop's distance from hopelessness.
(Tomorrow: Back to the funny monkey posts.)