Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another visit to the homeland …



Since we have been living in Cincinnati, about the last year and a half, we still manage a few visits to New Orleans, our putative home, each year. We are in one of those visits now. (Pictured is a piece of outdoor art from a current exhibit in N.O., Prospect.1)

Our time in N.O. is not so seriously about the city, more about visiting our long-term friends. We have made some good friends in Cincinnati, but there is something special about seeing people you have known for 30 years or more.

We had planned to stay in a Ramada in Metairie, in the heart of the suburban action. Susan arrived five days before me, and the Ramada so depressed her that she moved in with my BFF Harold and wife Sue until I arrived. She said the room she checked into was dark, sterile, and not homey enough. She should join hotels.com as a reviewer.

Susan picked me up at the airport as fully packed as I was, and we moved into our home away from home, with my brother Alan and his wife Mona, in Kenner. We are very comfortable here, but fear we may have imposed to the limit. We were here for a week in November, and as I recall, twice earlier in the year.

On my first full day here I had lunch with Harold. We call our get-togethers “sessions” because we tell all and it feels like therapy. Lunch was at Bozo’s, a popular seafood establishment in Metairie.

The next day we went to the North Shore to meet some friends of 30 years, Dava and Carole. From there we went to La Provence, a classy restaurant in the country. The food was outstanding as usual. For an added treat we chatted with Ronnie Kole, an accomplished local pianist, and he played a few of our requests.

On day three I visited with another dear friend of 40 years, Jerry N., at a nearby coffee shop. We talked for two-and-a-half hours without a pause. On day four I visited with another friend of 45 years, Jerry K.

Then Susan got sick and we canceled a few things. I’ll spare you the details of the last three days here, but wanted to characterize what a visit to N.O. is like.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Louisiana last in population growth ...


Excerpted from an article by Cain Burdeau, Associated Press Writer:

Louisiana is leading the nation in loss of population, supplanting North Dakota in percentage of population decline, new U.S. Census data shows.

If the trend continues, Louisiana could rank last in population growth when the 2010 Census is completed.

Between 2000 and 2008, Louisiana's population - estimated at 4.4 million in 2000 - fell by about 58,000, or 1.3 percent, the Census' annual survey updates show. The only other state to lose people over that same period, North Dakota, saw a drop of 0.1 percent.

The new figures - interim to the formal Census in 2010 - indicate Louisiana is facing serious problems with outmigration, especially among younger and better educated people, demographers who track such trends in the state say. A string of monster hurricanes - Ivan, Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike - exacerbated the slide.

"Louisiana leads the nation in outmigration," said Elliott Stonecipher, a Shreveport-based demographic analyst. "Going on 30 years, we've had a steady flow of people out the door."

One root cause is the oil bust of the mid-1980s, which sucked jobs and employers out of the state's oil and natural gas dominated economy. Since then, population gains have been mostly flat and now downward.

"This is something we've been barking about for a long time," said Greg Rigamer, a New Orleans-based demographer.

Louisiana has not been able to keep pace with other Southern states since 1960. Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina exceeded national growth rates while Louisiana fell well short, according to an analysis done by Rigamer.

"It's kind of ironic, (Louisianans) weren't going far: They were going to Dallas, Houston, Atlanta," said Charles Tolbert, a demographer and sociologist at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "So it's not the South. They perceived better opportunity elsewhere than Louisiana."

Policy makers hope the downward trend will be turned around by a combination of events.

For one, the billions of dollars being spent by the federal government and insurance companies in the wake of the recent hurricanes is lifting the economy.

Another plus is Louisiana's relatively good economic outlook during the national recession. For example, Louisiana climbed from 45th to 17th in a new Forbes ranking on states' growth prospects.

Another positive sign is Gov. Bobby Jindal's vow to make the population dilemma a top agenda item. "I got into politics because I was tired of seeing so many people leave our state," Jindal (pictured) said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "We absolutely have to change this." The goal is to make Louisiana "the best place to raise a family, the best place to pursue careers," Jindal said.

Jindal said the solution is to expand the economy by encouraging new industries - such as nuclear energy, entertainment and alternative energy production - while keeping up the state's mainstays - including shipbuilding, fishing and public colleges.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Louisiana's 2008 ...


John Maginnis (pictured) looks back at 2008 events that shaped Louisiana politics:

A historic year in national politics did not lack for precedents in Louisiana.

• Bobby Jindal's rocket ride. The last American politician before Jindal to attract as much national attention in his first year of statewide office will be sworn in as president in three weeks. Jindal's "new day for Louisiana" quickly turned into a new world for him when conservative commentators began touting him for vice president, which, we learn later, he declined to be considered for. Now he's traveling the country insisting he is not running for president in 2012.

• "Vulnerable" Landrieu victorious. Despite being targeted by Republicans as the most beatable Senate Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu ran strong on her post-storm record and growing seniority. She also waged a tougher campaign than Treasurer John Kennedy. In the words of columnist Clancy DuBos, she defined Kennedy before the former Democrat could redefine himself. She now is not only the state's senior statesman but also its undisputed connection to the Obama administration, in terms of projects and patronage.

• The pay-raise fiasco. For a legislative act that never took effect, the bill to raise state lawmakers' pay, like no other issue, ignited a firestorm that burned careers and singed the governor's sky-high popularity. New legislators learned quickly that tighter ethics laws and the biggest-ever personal tax cut counted for squat in face of their self-serving salary over-reach. The controversy also demonstrated how fast and hot a public cause can grow when fanned by the Internet and other forms of new media.

• Jefferson family values. Although he lost on nearly every pre-trial motion, indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson managed to keep winning elections, until he lost the one few thought he could.

• The improbable Mr. Cao. The most compelling political human interest story of the year belongs to Anh "Joseph" Cao of New Orleans, the former war refugee who is the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress, beating Jefferson in a huge upset. Starting with a small band of Republicans who believed in him and aided by the hurricane-delayed election schedule, the Cao campaign crossed party lines to become a civic movement. In a majority black district, his electoral future is uncertain but not untenable. He already has made history.

John Maginnis is an independent journalist and author on Louisiana politics. He wrote The Last Hayride and Cross to Bear, and oversees LAPolitics.com. EMail John at news@theadvertiser.com

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Post-Racial" America?


Pam Spaulding reports on a shocking situation at Algiers Point. Her story is excerpted from an A.C. Thompson article in "The Nation." Is this true, or a spoof? You be the judge:

Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply "didn't belong."

...Fellow militia member Wayne Janak, 60, a carpenter and contractor, is more forthcoming with me. "Three people got shot in just one day!" he tells me, laughing. We're sitting in his home, a boxy beige-and-pink structure on a corner about five blocks from Daigle's Grocery. "Three of them got hit right here in this intersection with a riot gun," he says, motioning toward the streets outside his home. Janak tells me he assumed the shooting victims, who were African-American, were looters because they were carrying sneakers and baseball caps with them. He guessed that the property had been stolen from a nearby shopping mall. According to Janak, a neighbor "unloaded a riot gun"--a shotgun--"on them. We chased them down."

He's equally blunt in Welcome to New Orleans, an hour long documentary produced by the Danish video team, who captured Janak, beer in hand, gloating about hunting humans. Surrounded by a crowd of sunburned white Algiers Point locals at a barbeque held not long after the hurricane, he smiles and tells the camera, "It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it." A native of Chicago, Janak also boasts of becoming a true Southerner, saying, "I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings." A white woman standing next to him adds, "He understands the N-word now." In this neighborhood, she continues, "we take care of our own."

... Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto n…...s' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting n…..s."

Color of Change has launched a campaign to ask Gov. Bobby Jindal to take action.

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, White vigilantes hunted down Black men who entered Algiers Point and even tried to expel their Black neighbors. Louisiana's broken law enforcement agencies have refused to investigate these crimes.

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