Give Them a Break
I was exceptionally pleased to read in Jeremy Alford's piece "Bohemian Breaks" (News & Views, June 5) that Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu is proposing legislation that will finally give some concrete incentives and tax benefits to the creative class that works so tirelessly to make New Orleans (and Louisiana) the world-class cultural destination that it is and has always been.
At last, the powers that be may actually be able to deliver something more than lip service to those of us who utilize our creative minds to better our communities and create economic wealth. We are not and never will be a gazillion-dollar steel mill, but as a collective we deserve to be treated with the same respect that other sectors of our economy demand. Our numbers are hard to quantify but our presence is everywhere and our impact abounds -- from the musician in the club to the artist in the studio and all the cultural events that feature our offerings. We are the backbone of this state's way of life. We make the music sing, the paint swirl and the food tickle the tongues of the world. Yes, we make money, generate jobs and pay sales taxes -- and we are one of the reasons cultural tourism even exists.
I truly hope this legislative package will be embraced in Baton Rouge this session so that people will see New Orleans and Louisiana for what they are and what they can be -- a world-class cultural capital that inspires people's souls, minds and spirits. As an artist and a gallery owner, I pray we don't miss yet another opportunity to keep our creative class from leaving the state and inspire more artists to join us in the pursuit of our dreams.
Owner, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery
For too long, the pharmaceutical industry has blocked American consumers from obtaining lower-price prescription drugs from abroad. One of the results is that Americans pay the highest prices for brand-name prescription drugs in the world. With 45 million Americans uninsured, and countless numbers underinsured, people too often do not fill their prescriptions because they cannot afford to do so.
The U.S. Senate has taken the first step towards making prescription drugs more affordable by moving forward with an AARP-endorsed amendment that would allow for the safe and legal importation of lower-priced drugs from abroad. The bipartisan amendment, introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Me.), would legalize the importation of FDA-approved drugs from certain countries (beginning with Canada), impose strict safety standards to prevent drug counterfeiting and include provisions to prevent potential trade obstructions.
Unfortunately, in a move backed by the drug industry designed to block the measure, opponents are trying to add language prohibiting importation of prescription drugs unless the Secretary of Health and Human Services can certify that it is "safe" to do so. Despite the fact that safety provisions are already built into the bill, this provision is designed to give unnecessary discretion to the secretary to block importation. The AARP urges Sen. Mary Landrieu to oppose this roadblock to importation.
AARP members are counting on their senators to support legislation that will lower prescription drug prices. Allowing the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs is a good start.
State director, AARP
We Want Our SUVs
Compromises are now being cut in Congress over something called the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program, which was supposed to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Ironically, we're more dependent on foreign oil than ever, and here in post-Katrina Louisiana, we're more dependent on trucks, mini-vans and SUVs than ever.
These cars not only haul more, but they are seen as safer for our families. In short, they are evacuation vehicles. If you got the opportunity to buy a new car post-storm, this is what you bought. But Congress is seeking to penalize you for that by enacting unreasonable fuel-economy standards on automobile manufacturers and consumers, which means you will pay more. Instead of offering incentives for hybrid vehicles or alternative fuels, we'll get jammed again.
What are They Thinking?
With all due respect for any citizen's right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, one might wonder if many New Orleans politicians have simply become delusional.
To hear, for example, Bill Jefferson's initial comments, he would have us believe that all of the business associates he dealt with had no idea he was a government official, or if they did, the fact that he was a powerful senior legislator in our nation's capital had no bearing on his business dealings. At the same time, Jefferson passed on his delusion-infected advice to Eddie Jordan who, after his election, promptly fired 53 hard-working white people in a manner which a federal court has ruled to be racist. Meanwhile, in a civil court across town, Judge C. Hunter King goaded and intimidated his employees into fund-raising for his campaign while continuing to handle their daily workload. All three repeatedly stated they did "nothing wrong."
Maybe the blurring of ethical vision comes with the job. In their respective offices as district attorney and sheriff, Harry Connick and Charles Foti thought nothing of forcing their employees to "volunteer" to participate in campaign activities on their own time.
Perhaps delusional is too charitable an assessment of some politicians. Other words come readily to mind: self-serving, unethical, arrogant.
It's Good to Be King
I want to be Mike VI.
Where do I apply? I think that I, dressed as a tiger, would make a far more entertaining and fun mascot for LSU than a caged wild animal. A person in a tiger suit is a better alternative for a mascot than purchasing a replacement live tiger.
LSU says its new baby tiger, Mike VI, will be "well-cared for" and have a lavish home, but that is no excuse to enslave an animal. If I took someone's child and kept him in a mansion with a big backyard, safe from predators and the violence and drugs on our streets, does that make kidnapping acceptable?
No mother should ever have to experience having her baby stolen away from her. Wild tigers stay with their mothers until they are young adults ready to mate (about 3 years old). Some people may think LSU is helping preserve this endangered species, but supporting or participating in captive breeding does nothing to help wild populations. Wild animals raised in captivity are nearly impossible to release into the wild.
A tiger's territory ranges from about 20-100 square miles. Mike VI will be in a 15,000-square-foot enclosure. Mike VI will never experience the challenge of stalking his prey, never interact with other wild animals or engage in courtship. His every basic instinct will be hindered.
Is this what a reputable university like LSU wants to be associated with? The money necessary to care for captive wild mascots could be donated to real tiger conservation organizations, groups that work to stop poaching and preserve habitats.
Not Picture Perfect
Two weeks volunteering with the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans gave me a pretty good snapshot of what's going on in your city, and it's not a pretty picture. Most striking is the devastation of the Lower Ninth Ward and the ghostlike emptiness of so many neighborhoods, including the fortress-like housing projects that stand as silent testimony to today's war against the poor.
It is one thing to see the Lower Ninth Ward, to experience the despair and anger of the people struggling against all odds to rebuild their shattered lives, homes and community, but it is something else altogether to see the projects -- massive brick structures built to withstand catastrophic storms -- where damage is minimal, surrounded by fences, with doors and windows covered with steel barriers to make certain none of the former residents return.
Once the poor are eliminated, the reigning powers are free to tear down the projects and build so-called mixed-income housing, which does not include enough units for all of the project residents, Wal-Marts (as in the case of the razed St. Thomas project) or anything else deemed acceptable (read: profitable). To movers and shakers of the new world order, the projects are tantalizing opportunities to turn "nonproductive" public institutions into profit-making enterprises. The fact that there are about 4,000 families waiting to return to their homes makes no difference. It would take a matter of a few months to refurbish these dwellings, but HUD proclaims they are "unsafe."
What makes this outrageous situation even more despicable is the quiet complicity of good New Orleanians, black and white. In general, crime, drugs and dysfunction are cited as reasons why the projects should be torn down. There were serious problems, but the great majority of people living in the projects were responsible, decent, hard-working folks.
A lot has been said about the importance of New Orleans as a cultural treasure. People everywhere speak lovingly about the food, music and ambience of the Crescent City. I have visited the city many times, and what struck me most powerfully is not the food, music or other charms, but the blackness of its population and culture. Though Mayor Ray Nagin was excoriated for his "Chocolate City," remark he was absolutely dead-on. New Orleans is most definitely a Chocolate City, and all the better for it. Or was. With over half of the black population missing, the character, vitality and matrix that created this marvelous culture is gone. Human beings make a culture, not restaurants, music festivals or second-line photo-ops.
Assuring that the rights of the poor are protected benefits everyone. In this sense, we are all New Orleanians. The people must return.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Thank you for the terrific article about KID smART ("Art = Smart," News & Views, May 15). It is important to showcase the positive things happening in education in New Orleans -- and there are many of them.
There is just one glaring omission in the article. I neglected to credit and name our incredibly talented teaching artist, Dixie Moore. All of our programs are only as good as the artists who are working, and Dixie ranks among the finest in the city. She's done an incredible job with us this year, both in the plate project and teaching in Fischer, John McDonogh, Tureaud and Eisenhower schools.
Dixie deserves much of the credit for the success of this program.
Executive director, KID smART