By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Letter of the Week
Flood of vitriol
President Bush is not perfect by any means. Also, evaluation of any person's response to a crisis is almost certain to reveal things that might have been done better. However, James Ridgeway's article "George Bush, Katrina Is Calling" [villagevoice.com, September 1] cannot possibly be construed by a reasonable person as an evaluation, or even a vague attempt at one. It is a vitriolic diatribe, possibly based on personal hatred of Bush, but certainly not based on honest assessment of the situation in New Orleans. At a time like this, inflammatory drivel such as this can only tear down, whereas this country needs to come together to help New Orleans survive and then rebuild.
Garner, North Carolina
Re Anya Kamenetz's article "My Flood of Tears" [September 713]: I am a refugee from the French Quarter in New Orleans, and can relate to the racism that Kamenetz describes. The morning after Katrina my daughter Marissa and I were walking around the French Quarter counting ourselves lucky when we saw a police convoy being organized outside the Royal Orleans Hotel.
I walked up to a policeman and asked where our convoy was being sent to us. He told us that he had only been instructed to evacuate the hotel. When I asked what we should do, he looked around to make sure that no one else could hear and told us that the levee had been breached and that the water was three blocks away. He told us that we should leave at once. We left with only a quarter of a tank of gas. We are now in Houston. If I had been a black man instead of a white woman wearing designer clothes, I would be dead now.
New Orleans, Louisiana
A charnel ground
Anya Kamenetz's article strangely makes only a passing reference to the trapped people "being black" along with a vague mention of guilt apparently stemming from a childhood field trip to a plantation. She hardly acknowledges that as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans, the affluent white folks left town lickety-split. In one day rescuers pulled over 900 people out of the Ninth Ward, the area with the lowest elevation and populated by the poorest blacks. That's just the beginning. New Orleans is a charnel ground: a testament to the cruel racism that sears America's soul.
Net gain: guilt
What I gained from the cover story by Anya Kamenetz was that she has a lot of guilt issues to deal with as a white person in the South. What I did not gain was any useful information regarding the disaster or the politics involved. I was left with the feeling of "I met a black person once and . . . " Why this made a cover story I don't know, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that it was the only thing in the paper about the hurricane.
Canton, New York
Exiled from Bourbon Street
I want to tell you how much I enjoyed Anya Kamenetz's articles regarding New Orleans. I've now been exiled twice during my lifetime: physically, from Cuba in 1959, and now emotionally from New Orleans. Because of that and my multi-ethnic roots, I too am familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures concerning exile.
I first went to the Crescent City in 1950 at the age of six. I lived and went to school there, from grammar school, to high school in nearby Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of New Orleans. The schools are all gone, as far as I can tell.
Anyone with an ounce of intelligence and honesty knew about the huge New Orleans underclass during all of those decades; we just chose to ignore it or pretend it wasn't there. I always knew this was waiting to happen when all of the elements coalesced, and they have. Still, I have to remain optimistic for the future. I refuse to write off such a wonderful place as New Orleans which has given me so much during my lifetime. To me, New Orleans has always been so much more than a party town.
David A. Alvarez
James Ridgeway's ideas about oil company profits ["Pumping Us Dry," Mondo Washington, September 713]are not new but revive my discontent beginning with Bush and his D.C. cronies. What I have trouble with are ideas that focus on D.C. alone for Detroit's failings.
I was 18 in '74 when the first gas crisis hit this country. Some progress was made in alternative energy research. What boggles my mind is how in 1980 I bought a car that got 40 mpg on the highway, and now, 25 years later, such a vehicle is still an oddity. This isn't just because D.C. has failed to legislate, but because there must be something preventing Detroit from doing what capitalists are supposed to do: use innovation to get a competitive edge. Why?
From my perch as an engineer who has felt some pride at my profession's advancements, I honestly believe that some automobile engineers have worked diligently to improve fuel efficiency standards. Somebody is holding them back.
If something stinks in Detroit, it is likely the refuse of needless oil burned to inflate the profits of the oil companies, which must be in collusion with the capitalists who manufacture automobilescorporate executives like those of Enron, who see the bottom line defined by dollars on a spreadsheet where ethics and honesty can't be measured. Washington knows why we haven't increased the fuel efficiency of our automobiles. They know they can bring about change to benefit all of America. They don't because Big Oil speaks, and has been speaking since before Reagan began trying to reduce the government's role in directing the market.
It occurs to me that the Katrina tragedy could prove to be a perfect storm for oil companies to benefit from. On the other hand, the catastrophe is such that any hope Dick Cheney might have had of succeeding Dubya must be dissolved by now. How many Halliburton contracts will be awarded in Louisiana and other hurricane-ravaged states? Should make for marvelous voyeurism in the lead-up to the 2006 midterm contest.
Re Benjamin Strong's review of Slow Man["The Dismemberment Plan," August 31September 6]: Why the gratuitous dig at J.M. Coetzee's support of animal rights? Far from being an irrelevant concern, it is an international movement that recognizes the right of all sentient beings not to suffer from human abuse and has won significant victories around the world. It is a natural progression as one widens one's concern to prevent suffering first from the peer group, then to other humans, finally to all who inhabit our world and that world herself.
Bayport, New York
I enjoyed reading Joy Press's review of Six Feet Under's final episode ["Ghostworld," August 2430], although I don't think Press understands the purpose of the dead revisiting the living or "[e]xtinguished characters returned to goad the living," as she writes. Their purpose is not to torment. They are figments of the living's imagination and their purpose is to show the audience how that living character truly and deeply perceives himself. It gives you a glimpse into what their darkest and innermost feelings about themselves are, and most of the time reveals their fears.
To quote Alan Ball, "Once a character is dead, they're never speaking as that character, they're speaking as a fragment of the person they're speaking to. It's David thinking, 'I am a fucking freak. I'm disgusting.' " It's not David's father who is actually speaking those words. Just something to think about as we reflect on this amazing series.
In her article "The Tipping Point" [The Essay, August 1723], Nina Willis-Aronowitz typifies the sour nature of New York service staff. Make the damn bar owner pay a living wage. He's raking in plenty. Ten percent is plenty for a tip. The rest of the world knows this, you might try it sometime.
The Jazz Consumer Guide ("Bush Medicine," August 2430) erred in attributing a record, Believe (Cryptogramophone), to "Steve Amendola Band"; the correct artist name is Scott Amendola Band.