Thursday, May 6, 2010
Pray for those suffering from storm
• During the last presidential debates, I remember when Obama said something like this: “During the recession of 2001, President Bush told Americans to go shopping. I think we can do better than that.”
I made a mental note that before this recession was over, Obama and his administration would be exhorting Americans to shop. Sure enough, we got Cash for Clunkers and now this latest federal program giving cash rebates to consumers to buy appliances.
The government criticizes Americans for maxing out our credit cards, yet this is what keeps the economy humming. Indeed, the entire global economy is dependent on American consumerism.
This irony carries over to the environment. The most developed countries have the cleanest environments. It is the impoverished countries that denude their hillsides for stove wood. Meanwhile, 50 percent of Mississippi is covered in forests. Consumerism is good for the environment.
The economy is rebounding. The Great Depression II didn’t happen. Monetary policy works, as it has for decades. (And I might add, newspapers are still here!)
This was a bad recession because the bubble was residential real estate, which affects the entire economy. But the sky didn’t fall. Chicken Little was wrong again.
Longtime readers will note that I am sort of an anti-Chicken Little kind of guy. I also don’t believe in conspiracy theories. Real life is so much more boring.
There is much hullabaloo about financial reform. Some beneficial tinkering will be done, but bubbles and business cycles are part of human nature and can never be eliminated. Most regulations are either a waste of time or do more harm than good. A precious few regulations work. In general, free markets work better than government regulation.
• Ginny and I went - alone! - to Jazz Fest in New Orleans, our first trip in three years without children. What a difference! Without the hassles of family logistics, I rediscovered that we actually have fun together if left to our own devices.
New Orleans is back! Like many people, I sort of avoided New Orleans after the bad publicity of Katrina, but now I’ve made three trips in three months.
It was painful to listen to Art Garfunkel try to hit the high notes on “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Aging singers need to lower the keys of their oldies to adapt to their aging vocal chords. Few people would notice the lower key, but everybody winces when the singer struggles and fails to hit the high notes.
I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel, and was once mesmerized by such songs as “The Sound of Silence.” Now the lyrics just seem silly and immature. Ah, the innocence of youth.
The fairground was a big mud puddle from recent rain. Other than that, it was just as I remembered Jazz Fest 18 years ago.
We had the most pleasure going to the small stages and listening to some awesome local bands as we slurped oysters.
Our two dinners were at Muriel’s and K-Paul’s - both New Orleans classics. Thumbs up for both, but truth be known, Jackson food is now just as good. Still, there’s something about being in New Orleans. We stayed at the J.W. Marriott - a big hotel on Canal that used to be Le Meridien. I recommend it.
There is, however, one thing in New Orleans that is incomparable to anything in Jackson - brunch at Arnaud’s. Arnaud’s dining room has the perfect Sunday morning lighting and decor. It was full of locals, but not crowded. A subtle, three-man Dixieland band (banjo, tenor sax and bass fiddle) goes from table to table singing requests and New Orleans classics. We requested “Moon River” and got the best rendition I have ever heard.
I picked up the Times-Picayune and was amused to note our friends to the south are having the same problems with the Corps of Engineers that we are experiencing. An editorial stated, “Despite the vast destruction caused by the failure of the federal government’s floodwalls, the corps seems intent on choosing the cheapest, not the safest, flood control measures. The agency is late in delivering numerous reports ordered by Congress on flood protection and coastal restoration — and, maddeningly, keeps trying to pretend that it is state and local officials who are responsible for the delays. They aren’t; the corps is.
Instead of a specific strategy that can be adopted and begun right away, the corp is working on an 8,000-page menu of alternatives. Such a mishmash of information is a good way to escape responsibility.” Sound familiar?
My New Orleans trip was marred by the awful tornado that struck Yazoo, Choctaw and several other counties. I publish newspapers in both Yazoo and Choctaw, so I was particularly concerned. Within minutes of the storm, I received an e-mail, checked the Clarion-Ledger Web site and began getting text messages concerning the disaster, all while listening to music at Jazz Fest. We truly do live in a world of instant communication.
We’re not as bad as Oklahoma, but Mississippi is probably in second place on the tornado threat chart.
Just two years ago in April, a similar tornado whacked Jackson. I know. I was at ground zero and felt my car lift off the ground. At least we don’t have to worry about earthquakes and mud slides.
Please pray for the hundreds - maybe thousands - of people who are suffering from this brutal storm.
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