Saxophonist John Doheny was born in Seattle Washington in 1953 but has spent much of his adult life in Canada, primarily in Vancouver and Toronto. After early experiences accompanying strippers in bars and cabarets he became a professional R&B sideman in the late 1970s, touring and recording with artists both prominent and obscure. In 1991 he returned to Vancouver and began a program of intense musical study, both in academe (Vancouver Community College, the University of British Columbia) and in the more informal area of performance. He asserts that "all human intercourse is either an opportunity to learn or to teach. Everything that I know about jazz performance (to the extent that I know anything at all) I owe to those players, teachers and students who have suffered to share the bandstand and the teaching studio with me." Since 2003, Mr. Doheny has been a permanent resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but makes every effort to spend summers in Canada because "it's too damn hot down here then."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Jindal Era...

...is what the Times-Picayune is calling the election of Piyush "Bobby" Jindal as the state's first Indo-American governor last night. It has a nice progressive ring to it, until you look a little closer and see that Jindal is a fervently Catholic, pro-life social conservative with the telltale 'R' (republican) after his name on the ballot. He will no doubt hew closely to the official republican party line on New Orleans, which is that we can go to hell, preferably quietly and without too much fuss. His status as a loyal Bush-bot was confirmed right before the election when he stated loudly and repeatedly that he supported the children's health care bill (SCHIP) and would break with republican ranks to vote against the president's veto of it. When the crunch came though, he got cold feet and stayed home, missing the vote. One assumes it only took a quick call from the White House to put him in his place.
For those not familiar with Louisiana politics perhaps a quick survey course is in order. There's a saying in Louisiana that "the real southerners live up north," meaning that the more traditional 'southern' conservative, white voters live mostly north of Alexandria. South Louisiana (and New Orleans) skews heavily African-American and Latin-Catholic, constituencies more likely to vote democratic. Or at least it did, pre-Katrina. A lot of those voters are still scattered hither and yon, opening up the possibility of Louisiana, always a swing state anyway due to it's bifurcated, north-south dichotomies, going solidly red in the 2008 election. If you think that's gone unnoticed in Bushworld, you haven't been paying attention.
My impression is that Jindal's victory will initially open up the way for a little republican housecleaning. "Diaper Dave" Vitter, for instance, who seemed a good bet to weather his recent callgirl scandals just a few weeks ago, is probably history now. Since Jindal will simply replace him with another republican hack, he can now safely be thrown under the bus. In the long run, under Jindal's carefully crafted image as a young, fresh face (he's 34) and an 'ethnic minority' (although republican dreams of picking up a substantial increase in voters of color appears to have been scuppered by the fact that colored people are suprisingly reluctant to vote against their own interests) republicans will have plenty of cover for their time-honored practises of gerry-mandering voting districts, supressing opposition votes, and other myriad forms of election theft.
How this will play out for the city of New Orleans is hard to say. Immediately after the flood, the major concern among my little social set was that rebuilding would occur too rapidly, that carpetbagging disaster capitalists would flood in and tear down damaged housing wholesale and replace it with a Disneyfied version of New Orleans, specifically designed to fleece tourists and conventioneers with a kind of fake hedonism that bore little resemblance to the complex street-level culture that was washed away in the flood. In this it now seems we were incredibly naive. I don't think any of us realized, in our darkest moments, that it would be possible for these people to make fortunes 'rebuilding' New Orleans without actually doing any rebuilding! It's Disaster Capitalism refined to it's highest form, wherein huge no-bid contracts are let to politically connected firms and the money is then siphoned off through multiple layers of subcontractors, diverted through shell companies, held up with impossible-to-negotiate regulations requiring co-payments or money-up-front deals with municipalities already so bankrupt they can't pay their cops and firemen or repair vital infrastructures, and plain old good ole boy waste and fraud. If there's a precedent in the country's history for this truly awesome level of political cynicism, I'm unaware of it.
We'd also neglected to factor in the sheer stupidity and incompetence of American machine politics as practised by the Bush administration. These are after all people who have so managed to corrupt political discourse in this country that only two out of eight republican candidates for president find it politically expedient to admit subscribing to the Theory of Evolution. Where a political 'pundit' like Ann Coulter can go on national television and spout anti-semitic rhetoric right out of Mein Kampf and it's just 'lively debate.' Public discussion in this country is now controlled by people with the sophistication of ignorant, superstitious 18th century Carpathian peasants.
On the other hand, we also underestimed how tough and pervasive New Orleans culture is. Second lines still blast through my neighborhood on a regular basis (although in parts of the Treme newly arrived gentrifiers are starting to complain about the noise; sort of like people who move to the beach and bitch about the sound of the surf) and last spring's mardi gras indian Super Sunday celebration was bigger than ever. Never mind that some of the guys had to trek in from Houston or Atlanta to get back on the Holy Ground (I saw a guy in Indian Garb in a wheelchair heft himself out of a van on the Claiborne Avenue off-ramp of Interstate 10; he'd hitch-hiked, wheelchair and all, from Shreveport) , they were going to be there, bruh. New Orleanians are hard core.
The thing of it is, it's hard to express to outsiders how personally discouraging it all can be. A lot of us are starting to realize that this is it, life is going to be like this for the foreseable future. Maybe the rest of our lives. It was almost better right after the flood; sure the damage and human suffering was heartbreaking, but at least you felt like you were making a difference. Now it's just day after day of neglect and bullshit, with mean-spirited editorials about the "pity party" down here in lazy-negro-welfare-bum land, or, maybe even worse, the 'sympathy trolls' who talk about global warming and the need to move to higher ground. Of course none of these assholes has actually thought through what it would take to move a couple of million people, five major universities, a Lockheed Martin aerospace plant, a naval base, 30% of the nation's oil refining capacity, 40% of it's port capacity and 50% of the seafood industry upstream to, where...Baton Rouge? Sorry, that's not a deep water port. Hope you enjoy runaway inflation, impaired shipping capacity, and $8 a gallon gasoline.
I'm starting to think of New Orleans as a kind of national monument for what this country stands for in the 21st century. Waste, fraud, incompetence, ignorance, religious fanaticism, political corruption, and a deep, mean spirited hatred of the poor.

Comments on "The Jindal Era..."


Blogger David said ... (11:21 PM) : 

Sounds more like Hiaasen/Leonard than Julie Smith.


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