By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – If you have not yet done so, please read DaTechGuy’s post on the Saturday protests in Boston.

I’m a college educated, professional woman and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around all of this.  The irony is too great.

I’m trying to allow for the fact that I may have bias (my ancestors fought for the Confederacy), and certainly I don’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view.  Over a decade in blogging will teach you that right quick.  I support and even applaud your right to have a differing opinion and certainly support the right for everyone to be able to peacefully protest and express their opinion.

For me, from my perspective, I can’t help but tie these protests to New Orleans and the fact that Mitch Landrieu opened the door by moving the monuments there.

In Charlotte last week:

The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others arrived to protest the racism.

And we know what happened: the protest turned violent and a man ran into the crowd with his car, killing one woman and injuring others.

This could have easily happened in New Orleans as well; protests there during the removal of the Jefferson Davis monument were terribly intense and many protesters on both sides had visible weapons.  What happened in Charlotte could happen anywhere.

What’s this all about, though?

Is it about statues?

Is it about Trump?  What does Trump have to do with monuments that have stood for over a hundred years?

Why do we all hate each other all of a sudden?  Can’t we differ without hating each other?

I’m not a tree-hugging liberal singing Kumbaya by any means. I’m a Reagan conservative and I support leaving these monuments where they stand because they are part of our history.  You can’t change history.

Here in Shreveport, Louisiana, our city has been embroiled in the Confederate monument controversy as well, although thankfully without these ugly protests.  A committee of local historians and officials was formed and they voted to keep the Confederate monument in its place on the courthouse grounds; they’ve also voted to erect flaking monuments to Civil Rights and Reconstruction and to erect signage with a lengthy denouncement of the monument, including this language:

“This monument, erected in 1905 is in memory of those who defended the cause of 1861 to 1865 and the cause itself. That cause was the attempt, beginning in December 1860, in South Carolina, by Louisiana and twelve other states unilaterally to withdraw from the United States of America and establish the Confederate States of America in order to preserve the institution of slavery of Africans and their descendants. …

…It was erected after the Civil War ended, after slavery and involuntary servitude had been ended by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America (“except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”), after the abridgment of the right to vote “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude” had been prohibited by the 15th Amendment, and after the attempt at establishing state and local governments inclusive of former slaves and their descendants known as Reconstruction had failed due to their being disenfranchised by poll taxes and literacy tests, and by terror and threats of terror, including lynching, by whites. Thus, although they constituted 47 percent of Louisiana’s population in 1900, former slaves and their descendants had no say in whether or not or where the monument would be erected.”

Well.

There are some factual errors in that language and clearly some editorializing and bias, but the opposing side has the right (should the Caddo Commission approve this) to pay $10 a letter to put up this sign.

But why all this sudden fuss about monuments and statues?  Where does it end?

And why are we all of a sudden all fascists, Nazis, and white supremacists if we voted for Trump or if we support monuments?  THAT offends ME.

As DaTechGuy said in his post:

I was completely beside myself over this first of all Donald Trump won the majority of voters in 29 states. If a man can’t safely walk through Boston Common with that banner [“Make America Great Again”] no matter who is there that’s an incredible escalation as it is the dubbing of any person supporting Trump a fascist or a Nazi.

That’s just sad and frankly, wrong.

These protests happened all over the country during the weekend.  One in Dallas, “against white supremacy,” required police to chase protestors out of a Civil War cemetery which holds a Confederate monument:

Dallas police are using horses to try to break up a scuffle at a cemetery between people rallying against white supremacy and supporters of Confederate monuments.

Officers riding on horseback had waited as the confrontation became more intense, but they moved in to break it up around 9 p.m. It happened at Pioneer Park, a Civil War cemetery that houses the memorial to Confederate soldiers.

But wait – I thought the protesters wanted monuments out of courthouse squares and into museums or cemeteries!

The rules have changed?  Just that fast?

Where will it end?

Are we heading to another civil war?

It’s all too crazy for me.  As long as it was peaceful protests and working things out through legal channels, we can have that discussion. But when ANTIFA starts roping monuments, toppling them, burning them, without judgment or prosecution, things have gone off the rails.  Everyone does not get a trophy, you do not always get your way, and sometimes compromise is necessary.

We need a return to common sense and civility or our nation is finished.  We have to work out our differences peacefully. There is no other way.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  In the wake of last week’s flooding in New Orleans and the epic fallout of blame that has deluged us in the media, it is worth noting that the mayor of the city, Mitch Landrieu, has taken no blame whatsoever for the disaster that left many city residents and businesses all wet.

Saturday, August 5, New Orleans took on large amounts of rainfall in a short period – in some areas up to nine inches of rain – more than city pumps could keep up with:

New Orleans is prone to large rainfall events during the spring and throughout hurricane season. The city sits below sea level and is protected by a complex system of drainage pumps operated by the Sewerage and Water Board. After Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005, the federal government sent billions of dollars to New Orleans for improved flood protection, better drainage systems and enhanced levees. In the aftermath of the flood Saturday, there needs to be an accounting of how all of those dollars have been spent.

After the disaster, through the week, the blame game heated up. Heads rolled. People were fired or resigned.  Landrieu tried to stay unscathed.

It’s important to note that Mitch wasn’t even in the city. He was at a conference in Aspen, CO for the purpose of beefing up his presidential credentials.   He didn’t address the people of the city for two days:

[When the flooding began], Landrieu was attending a “security conference” at the Aspen Institute and did not bother to address the people of New Orleans until two days after the storm.

In effect, Landrieu placed his Aspen Institute conference above the citizens of New Orleans. Any true leader would have taken the next flight back to New Orleans to direct the city government’s response to the flood. Instead, Mitch Landrieu hid behind his administration officials and when they failed to meet expectations, he blamed them, fired them and tried to convey to the citizens a false image of engaged leadership.

As it turns out, after a series of false numbers, 16 of the city’s pumps were offline or undergoing maintenance when the storm hit.  Sixteen pumps not working during hurricane season.

As of Saturday, seven days after the storm, Landrieu has still not reviewed Water & Sewerage Board log to assess the problem:

“I have not looked at the logs personally,” Landrieu said during a Saturday morning press conference called to give an update on the status of a turbine that generates electricity for many of the city’s pumps.

The Times-Picayune is calling for Landrieu’s head:

Landrieu must carry a lion’s share of responsibility here. He appointed public works director Mark Jernigan, who apparently never got around to using $3 million earmarked for catch basin repair and maintenance. The mayor also maneuvered Cedric Grant into his role of executive director of the Sewerage & Water Board as a way to overhaul an agency that has been described “as a den for contract-peddling and sweetheart deals for those with the right connections.”

And while Landrieu claims he had no idea things were this bad, his own people cry foul:

But the mayor’s version took a hit late Thursday (Aug. 10) when Sewerage & Water Board president pro-tem Scott Jacobs announced his resignation and criticized Landrieu for blaming employees when the mayor was well aware of all the problems before the storms hit.

If the public is angry with anyone, Jacobs said it should be at the Landrieu administration “for not saying years ago, ‘You are at risk.’ This is not the first time we’ve had turbines down. This time, we got caught.”

Perhaps this will be the event that finally forces Landrieu’s supporters to see him for the career politician that he is and shut down Landrieu’s presidential aspirations.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  New Orleans flooded this weekend.  Again.

A heavy deluge of eight to ten inches fell on the city in a short time Saturday flooding homes, cars, businesses and creating havoc throughout the city.  People in New Orleans realize that their city is basically a below-sea-level bowl and flooding is always an issue, but there is also an extensive system of pumps, drainage, and catch basins that work to keep what happened this weekend from happening.

Last year the New Orleans City Council approved $3 million to work on drainage infrastructure and repairs, however the Landrieu administration has not yet started repairs because they’ve been waiting on an environmental review…for over a year.

The Department of Public Works contends that just because the $3 million hasn’t been tapped, they have not been ignoring daily repairs and cleaning of catch basins.

Obviously drainage was not a Landrieu priority last year; Mitch was much more focused on monuments and equity circles.

In a press conference Saturday, Cedric Grant, head of the Sewerage and Water Board attributed much of the problem to climate change, saying this type of flooding will happen more often.

As their city flooded once again, many residents took to social media to deride Landrieu for spending money on monument removal rather than drainage.

For his part, Landrieu suggested citizens clean out their own catch basins:

“These no-notice rain and flooding events can be very dangerous, but luckily, there was no loss of life,” Landrieu said. “Today, we begin the hard work of assisting those who flooded and getting our streets passable for regular traffic. With additional rain expected today and the rest of this week, I would encourage all of our residents to clean in front of their catch basins.”

It’s admirable and expected that citizens to take responsibility for their own safety of course. There are over 68,000 catch basins in the city:

The Department of Public Works’ maintenance department is responsible for cleaning and clearing catch basins of debris. There are 68,092 catch basins in the City. Each year the City budgets resources to clean approximately 3,500 catch basins.

The broken and clogged catch basins have been a source of conflict for over a year as some members of the City Council question the lack of maintenance from the Department of Public Works. In April, a dead body was found in one catch basin and workers had to dig out clogs and termites to get to the body of Joseph Consonery who had been murdered.

New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, supposedly put drainage and the pump system as top priority:

Sewerage & Water Board officials have said city’s drainage pumping system is designed to handle an inch of rainfall during the first hour of an event and a half-inch each hour thereafter. Officials said all 24 pumping stations were on and working on Saturday. The temporary pumping stations at the ends of the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals only operate when the floodgates blocking water from Lake Pontchartrain are closed, and thus are not operated during a rainfall event. The three permanent pumping stations under construction at the ends of those canals are not yet complete, but will operate in the same way.

Officials said the city’s public safety agencies, including police, fire and emergency medical services, responded to more than 200 emergency calls related to flooding.

City residents are not satisfied with their capacity, however, as the social media outrage reflects. Even the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street, which seldom floods, was inundated and several beloved restaurants took in up to three inches of water.

Once again it seems that Mayor Landrieu’s priorities are askew. We can’t fault him for a significant rain event (can we?) but certainly it is under his leadership and responsibility that the pumps and drainage system are properly maintained.  And to send his minions out to blame the mess simply on climate change and tell people to clean out their own drains is, well, just typical of him.

If what’s in my catch basins are termites and dead bodies, I’m probably not going to be too excited about that project.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  I’ve done a lot of ranting and raving in this space over the past months about the rising crime rate in New Orleans.  I don’t live in New Orleans, but the city is one of our top tourist spots in the state and is known for many wonderful things like music, a diverse and fascinating culture and history, beignets, Mardi Gras, the best food in the world, and on it goes.  The city (and our state for that matter) has certainly had its share of corrupt and/or inept leaders through the years, and Mitch Landrieu certainly falls into the inept category in my opinion.

Landrieu’s focus has been on things like removing Confederate monuments and building Equity Circles instead of fighting the rising crime rate in his city.  Infrastructure crumbles, citizens grumble, but Landrieu continues with his own agenda.

The Advocate reported last week that as of this point, 400 people have been shot in New Orleans.  And I’ve often pointed you to the murder map, which as of this morning tells us that 103 murders have occurred in the city this year.  This makes New Orleans one of the most dangerous places in the country.  Simply unacceptable.

All that being said, there is no shortage of crime in my part of the state, either. The City of Shreveport, also led by a Democrat mayor, for what that’s worth, is in a spiral of crime and daily shootings; there is much senseless violence in this town.

Not a day goes by when we don’t wake up or turn on the news to hear of another shooting or murder. And what’s our mayor working on?  She’s lobbying to build a new arena (we already have two, by the way) in hope of recruiting a D-league basketball team to town (a couple of which have come and gone for lack of support).

The latest act of senseless violence in Shreveport occurred Saturday night at a Mexican restaurant. The family is known and much loved by loyal customers. The parents are immigrants, they and the kids are hard-working.  The children have assimilated beautifully: one attends Baylor Law School and another Louisiana Tech University.  The father died tragically last year so they’ve struggled onward, the boy left school to help run the restaurant with his family.  They are a beautiful example of the American Dream and what you can attain through hard work and dedication.

Saturday night, the boy’s mother was leaving the restaurant around 11 p.m.  Two thugs were waiting for her outside and demanded her purse. She screamed and her son, Juan, ran to her defense.  The armed robbers shot him two times in the chest.  He’s now in critical condition and has had his right lung removed.  It’s a horrible tragedy.

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up for the family which have raised almost $40,000 in about 24 hours. One is here and the other is here.

But what are we worried about?  A basketball arena.  Our city is working under a huge shortage in the police department, much like New Orleans.

I’m not sure what the answer is: if it’s the mismanagement of city resources, the lack of jobs and a struggling economy, or maybe we are just more aware of these things these days.  Maybe it’s a combination of all of this and more.  We still have our Confederate monument – maybe that’s what it is.

What I do know is that the wide open spaces of neighboring Texas is looking better to me every day. Give me five acres of land in the middle of nowhere, a few cows, a couple of goats, some dogs, and I’ll be perfectly happy.

I don’t want to live in a city where young, bright kids with a fine work ethic is shot down for defending his mother.

I don’t want any part of it.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Last week Mark Rougeau at Rolling Stone wrote about the “hardcore” Pokemon Go players in the Los Angeles area. A casual player, Rougeau found himself in the world of hardcore Pokemon Go players after a post he made on Reddit begrudging gym turnover in his neighborhood brought him more attention than he intended.

Many are under the impression that Pokemon Go died after the initial flurry of play when the game launched but one look at ticket sales at the embarrassingly epic fail of Pokemon GoFest in Chicago this weekend would belie that.  Thousands of players descended on Grant Park in Chicago hoping to catch rare Pokemon and capitalize on special bonuses released just for the event.  Sadly, Niantic, did not plan well. Servers crashed, players were shut out, and the CEO of Niantic was booed from the stage when he came out to apologize for the problems.  Epic fail.

Scoff if you will, but some of these players came from all over the country and even from other countries. They bought airline tickets, hotel rooms, planned vacations, only to be stuck in long lines waiting to get into Grant Park and then shut out of the game once they got in.

By mid-afternoon Niantic was refunding ticket prices due to the “degraded experience” and giving players $100 in Pokecoins which can be used in the store to purchase a variety of items such as Pokeballs, extra storage, and incubators for hatching those eggs you get from Pokestops.  When problems persisted and the live stream wouldn’t even work, Niantic finally released two of the “legendary birds” in Chicago and then the rest of the country to appease wildly disgruntled players who were burning up social media in disgust and frustration with the mismanagement and poor planning.

Pokemon Go players are indeed hardcore.  The casual players have moved on but the ones that are left are serious:

When Pokemon Go launched in July 2016, it became an instant cultural phenomenon. It seemed like everyone was playing it, and if you weren’t playing, you were marveling about how it had caused the world to go crazy. Mainstream news outlets covered the “Pokemon Go craze” while players gathered in the hundreds and thousands to hunt for rare Pokemon in large cities like Los Angeles, Seattle and New York.

By the fall, the world appeared to have moved on, their precious Pokemon trapped forever in Poke Balls that would never again be tossed.

There are people that have become mini-celebrities over this game, famous on YouTube or famous in their own community for hitting top levels and holding down gyms for extended periods of time.

Intense rivalries can sometimes arise between teams (Mystic, Valor, Instinct) in areas and most players are hardcore angry about “spoofers” or cheaters.

I’m sort of a casual player of the game and have been since its launch (level 34, Mystic); most players I’ve met watched the show when they were kids and collected cards. I’m too old for that but I did buy cards for my son who collected them. He’s twenty-five now and he plays the game, too.  We play it together and it’s been a sort of fun thing we do together. Even Rougeau notes that aspect of it:

In a game with players as dedicated as those who love Pokemon Go, it’s inevitable that some ugliness will emerge. But many of the players I spoke with also said Pokemon Go is their social life. It’s how they met their friends. It takes them to places they’d never normally go, and they’ve gone on adventures that they cherish.

After Niantic’s release of the “legendary birds,” my son and I spent the day with 50 or 60 local players in a Telegram call-out group running from gym to gym to battle and collect these pixelated creatures.  It’s crazy, I know. But somehow it’s fun, too.  From a cultural aspect it is simply amazing to me to see literally 50 or 60 people (just in OUR group, there are others) descend from locations all over the city on one gym to battle a Lugia or Articuno.  It’s intense. Are there better things we could be doing?  Maybe. Are there worse things we could be doing?  Definitely.  Is it any different than the guy going out to play golf or the lady going out to shop garage sales? Nope.

The people I’ve met on these runs are great people and are of all ages and professions. There’s a chef, a marine, a commercial fisherman, a landscape man, a couple of stay-at-home moms, a teacher…it’s not just pimply kids that live in mom’s basement.

And it’s fun.

Niantic has invested a lot in this game and has worked hard to keep it engaging for players with special events, a slow rollout of Pokemon creatures, various challenges and now the epic fail event. Hopefully they will figure out what went wrong with the Chicago event and do better next time. Meanwhile, people are still spending money to play the game. You can play for free but I doubt you’ll find a hardcore player who hasn’t bought an incubator or some Pokeballs in the shop.

As the initial infatuation with the game has faded, the hardcore players remain and Niantic is cashing in. The subculture of players is huge and they are serious.

This isn’t about a bunch of pixels to them.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –  The 2017 New Orleans mayoral race qualifying period has closed with a total of 18 candidates, only three of which are considered major candidates.

As most are aware, New Orleans has been the center of much turmoil and negative attention in the past few months. During Landrieu’s term crime has risen dramatically and what is different about that is that it is now in the tourist areas around the French Quarter which has never been more dangerous than it is right now.

The Confederate monuments controversy has also pulled a great deal of attention to the city both positive and negative, depending on your perspective of the issue. At the very least, removal of the four historical monuments has made the city a little less unique and has pulled Landrieu’s attention away from more pressing matters, like police staffing, infrastructure, and crime.

The major candidates in the October 14 primary are “former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet.”  Crime is certainly going to be the top topic in this election.  “Crime is ravaging our city,” said Bagneris, who first ran for mayor in 2012. “Crime is up because police manpower is down, and criminals know it.”

There are no Republicans on the ballot:

Fellow businessman Frank Scurlock, who announced at about the same time as the “Big 3,” also could get a little traction using his own financial resources from his inflatable bounce house empire and his public opposition to the removal of the Confederate monuments to carve out a niche.

Scurlock is one of six white candidates in the field to lead a city with a population that is about 60 percent black. Eleven of the candidates signed up as Democrats, three are running as independents, and four others are running without a party affiliation. There are no Republicans on the mayoral ballot.

As of today, there have been 100 murders in New Orleans this year and countless shootings, muggings, assaults, and other violent crimes.

The primary is October 14 with a November runoff; Landrieu will remain in office through May. According to pundit Stephanie Grace:

[Landrieu] hinted that he hopes to help guide the choice of his successor, perhaps through the political action committee he has set up. While he hasn’t endorsed a candidate, Landrieu has bemoaned New Orleans voters’ history of focusing on change and has advocated for philosophical and policy continuity from his administration to the next.

This race will be closely watched throughout the state as many who have objected to Landrieu’s Confederate monument position have vowed not to visit the city until he is gone.

If a Landrieu clone is elected that tourism ban may continue.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Shortest summer ever.  I report back to work Thursday with a series of workshops and on our new high school ELA curriculum and students report back to class August 2.  When I first started teaching twenty years ago, my first report date was August 25; seems like it backs up every single year.  I suppose year-round school is the ultimate goal but nobody is saying that.

At any rate, I’ve made the most of my summer with a couple of little trips and tending to some chores that get neglected during the school year.  I’ve read some books – probably the one that has had the most profound effect on me was Beautiful Boy by David Scheff, which tells the story of his son’s battle against addiction. I can’t imagine what it took to write this book.  Raw pain on every page, but such a beautiful story of love.

What I should have been reading is all of the new material in our new ELA curriculum. Most of the selections we are now required to teach are things I’ve never read or have not read in thirty years.  I am now required to teach, for example, chapter one of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which is about the effect of pesticides on the environment; also on our required list is “Address to Congress on Women’s Suffrage” by Carrie Chapman Catt, excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, “Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda, countless speeches and essays, poems I haven’t read since college…and I’ve got to find a way to make this relevant and meaningful to 10th grade inner city students.

I’m a little concerned.

But, I like a good challenge, so I’m sure it will be fine.

What I find disturbing, as a teacher, is the scripted lessons that come with this new curriculum; I suppose this might be helpful to a brand new teacher, but for years we’ve been told that all students learn differently – I’ve been to countless workshops on various learning styles. Now, apparently all kids learn the same and from the same teacher script.  Thank you, Common Core.

Well, I have three more days to procrastinate and I won’t worry about that now. For the next three days, it’s still summer.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Now that the Confederate era monuments have come down in New Orleans, one would expect the crime rate to drop as well, at least that is the case if you subscribe to the Mitch Landrieu theory of crime control.

But of course that is not the case and residents and sick and tired of it.  Last week surveillance cameras caught an attack on video of two Boston tourists in the French Quarter. The attack was brutal and hard to watch, but it serves to show us that it’s not just in the neighborhoods where we expect there to be crime that this happens. New Orleans is a city that is supported in large part by tourism and when tourists go there they go to the French Quarter.  If you’re not safe there…

What is the mayor of the city doing about this rampant lawlessness in the city?  Not a whole lot.  He’s giving speeches in south Florida at the Conference of Mayors where he declared

“So let’s be honest. In these moments of uncertain, chaotic and sometimes frustrating times, the families we represent cannot look to Washington for answers,” Landrieu said. “In this political climate, we as mayors must fight to occupy the radical center, where idealism meets reality and where we put people over politics.”

He opened the Essence festival which gave him yet another opportunity to advocate for the removal of the monuments:

The mayor restated his position that though the Civil War was a brief period in the city’s history, the monuments had lingered as symbols for too long and had no place on a contemporary New Orleans public thoroughfares. He called the former situation “absurd.” He put a finer point of the subject when he described the proximity of the now-removed Robert E. Lee statue to the Convention Center.  “Just think about it for a moment,” he said, “having the Confederate monuments stand less than 300 yards from where the Essence Festival meets, that juxtaposition seems like it just doesn’t work.”

While Landrieu is positioning himself for a national bid of some sort when his term ends later this year, the city is in the grips of a terrible crime wave which is certain to affect tourism. This has nothing to do with monuments of course, but more with the fact that Landrieu has refused to pay police officers a decent wage and implemented a two year hiring freeze on police officers which dropped numbers by 400 officers, a 40-year low.

As of this writing, there have been 96 murders (many more shootings, muggings, robberies, rapes, etc.) in 2017 as compared with a total of 175 in 2016.  The numbers are higher each month this year than in comparable months for 2016.

Residents are sick of it.

James Hartman, writing for The Hayride blog, says

The French Quarter is safer, right?  It’s the tourist area so it has extra protection. It has extra taxes to pay for State Police protection, because while Landrieu told NOPD he couldn’t pay them more or hire more of them, he simply added a tax to hire state officials – an inexplicable paradox.  It’s the area that has barricades to prevent Nice- and London-style attacks on innocents.  We’re supposed to be safe there, right?

No.  We’re supposed to be safe everywhere.

Realistically, of course, that’s not possible.  Crime happens, and it happens everywhere.  What should not be happening, however, is that a city is so overrun with lawlessness that people are beaten nearly to death in the streets, that literally hundreds of people are shot – fatally or injuriously—or that children catch stray bullets while thugs roam free.  What shouldn’t happen is that the leader of a relatively major city gives speeches 1,000 miles away in which he says that statues are “virtual murders,” that the Paris Accords are the responsibility of America’s cities now, that Russians interfered with the presidential election (and, therefore, with his appointment to a Cabinet post).

As Landrieu positions himself on the national stage in the coming months we need to know the kind of leader he is. Under his tenure a once beautiful, thriving, unique city is somewhat diminished. It will take more than Mitch Landrieu to kill New Orleans, but he certainly has done her no favors.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

MIAMI, OK:  As I mentioned last week, we are on the road this week and as of this writing find ourselves on Route 66 in Miami, OK.

One of our travel stops today was pretty fabulous and worth sharing with you. It may never have crossed your mind that a 311 foot, Balao class submarine could be found in the middle of Oklahoma, but sure enough, that’s where you can find the USS Batfish at the War Memorial Park in Muskogee.

The sub is open to the public and is lovingly tended and kept in tip-top shape through private donations; the state of Oklahoma doesn’t fund the project (and therefore there is no sign on the turnpike or highways alerting tourists to the park).

The Batfish was commissioned in 1942 and was in service for 26 years and is known primarily “for the remarkable feat of sinking three Imperial Japanese Navy submarines in a 76-hour period, in February 1945.”

The sub sits now in a depressed area of a large field at the War Memorial Park in a shallow basin of water. After touring the museum, visitors then can walk outside and go aboard the sub. The first thing that hits you is the smell of the oil and machinery of the sub, but once you descend the ladder into the Batfish, you can see the torpedo holds, banks of brass gauges, dials, and levers; you can see the bunks where the crew rotated sleep shifts, the officer and the enlisted mess, a couple of office areas, and all along the tour are either guides or video monitors with information.

If I lived closer to Muskogee, I’d take part in some of the cool events that the park offers like Bands on the Batfish, or the overnight stays that they do to raise funds to support this fascinating piece of history.

What impressed my husband almost as much as the USS Batfish was the large section of the mast of the USS Oklahoma which was destroyed at Pearl Harbor.  It was sobering to stand next to that mast and realize its role in history.

Read more about the USS Batfish here, and about the park that has given her a home here. And if you find yourself in Oklahoma, go by and see it. If you want to donate to the upkeep and maintenance of the sub, go here. The park goes beyond just preserving the submarine, but also works to educate young people and to bring history alive.

For me, it was fascinating to walk through the submarine and think about the masterful engineering involved in putting so much equipment in such a small space.  It is well worth the trip.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  It’s officially summertime and many of us are looking toward to vacations and hitting the great open road to discover America, or other parts of the world.

For us, we head to the Midwest. There’s some truth in the old adage about the grass being greener, and all that; the living is always better where you aren’t.

Every summer we travel to Iowa. Now I know there are some people in Iowa wondering why in the devil dog would anyone want to come to Iowa, but we love it. My husband’s family is there but it’s not just that. It’s the road trip along the way. We take the backroads whenever we can and avoid interstates.

One year we left for the Midwest from the Dallas area after attending my grandson’s birthday and we ended up on Route 66 in Oklahoma which we rode out as far as we could, stopping to see all the cool Americana, road stops, signage, that we could. It was one of our more memorable trips.

To me, it’s the things you discover by accident as you roam, it’s not having a fixed plan or a rigid time schedule. When I was a child my father would throw us in the car and we’d head for the beach, but there would be only one stop along the entire fourteen hour trip. Maybe two. And they were fast. Get it and go.  Now I prefer to take things slower.

We love the Midwest, especially around the Fourth of July holiday because truly that’s where the heart of America can be found. The small town parades are the best.  In Shreveport, where we live, the Fourth is celebrated with a huge fireworks extravaganza and massive crowds, traffic jams, in the hot, humid Louisiana night. Give me the small town tractor parades any day.

Maybe it doesn’t matter where you go, just that you go. Sometimes we all need to get away and recharge our batteries, have some real down time.  What I’ll be doing next week is sitting in my sister-in-law’s backyard in the evenings while kids roast hotdogs over a fire pit, watching fireflies light up the dark corners of the yard…in the morning the tornado siren will go off at 7 a.m. for it’s daily test (and again at noon). The Amish buggies will clap down the streets and at the Sale Barn down the road the farmers that fill up America’s bread baskets will meet to solve the world’s problems over eggs and coffee. We will drive up to my husband’s family’s generational farm, breathing in gravel dust from the road as we traverse some of the prettiest rolling hills I’ve ever seen.

The biggest decision I will have to make all day is if we want to drive to the WalMart in the next county to pick up a few things.

The people are nice, friendly, and as down to earth as you’ll find anywhere. They want to know where you’re from, who your people are, and they’ll wish you a nice stay.

“Iowa?  You’re going to Iowa?”

Yes, I am, and I can’t wait.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.