New Orleans: Putting liberals to sleep

class=img_thumbleft>I missed the first half hour of

Monday's "great conversation"

at the U of M on rebuilding New Orleans, but in the hour or so I saw, there was almost no mention of the city itself until a written question from the audience came asking what the metropolis would look like in the future, and the school's Judith Martin mentioned a recent piece of legislation, not saying what it was, that would allow city residents to return to where they lived. That's not smart urban planning, she said. Louisiana is sinking. Parts of New Orleans will be underwater again. The new New Orleans will be smaller and less "diverse."

In other words, she mouthed the usual self-fulfilling liberal pessimism of those who conflate the man-made disasters of Louisiana with the natural ones, and who make the worst-case social scenario a reality by saying it's only realistic to do so. I would call members of this camp "eco-ethnic cleansers" if that didn't ramp-up already overcooked rhetoric, but those aghast at my hyperbole really should examine their assumptions: Did anyone notice that it took dark-horse black mayoral candidate Tom Watson to even bring up the issue of the displaced population during the pre-election mayoral debate?

I have a terrible memory when put on the spot, so if the law Martin was referring to slipped her mind, I don't blame her. (I can't find anything about it in the Time-Picayune as recently as this excellent May 1 article on the 9th Ward's DIY rebuilding effort.) That said, her failure to mention the massive political marginalization of most of the New Orleans population strikes me as disengaged and irresponsible. She seems to have useful ideas, and her "conversation" partner, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, said (and has done) excellent things about revamping FEMA and restoring the Army Corps of Engineers. He has introduced good legislation to prevent flood-prone rebuilding. Yet for all his anecdotes about the "communities" of Oregon, he never utters the word "protest." Both he and Martin speak in the first-person plural of policy-makers, as if "we" all have the power to implement, without a fight, the smart suggestions they offer. Blumenauer has been outspoken on the very-possibly man-made phenomenon of global warming. How can he speak so complacently about "anticipating the market," when that mild social corrective has failed us so dramatically on the crucial issues of our time?

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