Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A sinking feeling

This post will by my 1818th entry on The American Zombie since the first on July 4th, 2006.

In the past month I have found myself reflecting, heavily, on this thing I've done....this blog.  At times I've been extremely proud and other times I've felt like it was an enormous burden, even a threat to myself and my family.  Truth is, in the past few months it's felt like an exceptional burden.

It started it as an experiment.  Upon the completion of the documentary, Left Behind, I made with Dr. Vince Morelli, I came to the conclusion that the root of this City's problem was its education system and the root of our education system's problem was corruption.  I discovered there was not a lack of money in the Orleans Parish School System but that the funds were simply being stolen at nearly every turn to the great detriment of our children.

I figured the blog was a way to possibly expose the entrenched corruption that exists within so many layers of New Orleans/Louisiana government.  I was naive enough to think that I could affect change simply by exercising the powers of the First Amendment.  

From that original "thunk" I have devoted an enormous amount of time, energy and money into this experiment and there's not a day that goes by I don't think about it....wondering if it's worth it...feeling guilty because I've neglected one or more stories...thinking about how much more effective it might be if I devoted all of my time to it....worrying about who I might have pissed off and if it would affect my income stream....wondering how it will affect my children as they become adults....

.....it weighs on me a lot.  Lately it has weighed on me more than usual.

I have to admit that I've reached a point where I don't think my efforts are actually affecting social and/or governmental change and if I'm not doing that I don't think it's worth the effort.  As my father used to tell me, "Don't half-ass do anything, Son.  Otherwise you're just pissing in the wind."

Truth is, I feel hopeless.

When I started AZ I was writing under the assumption that our justice system was...just.  I believed that if I simply told the truth and exposed criminal activity, city, state and federal law enforcement officials would pay attention and rectify the problems.

I believed justice was truly blind and the rule of law was real, the system simply needed people to exercise the First Amendment in order to set the wheels in motion.

What I believed, in the beginning, was that there was an avenue for recourse if the average citizen just woke up from their slumber (hence "The American Zombie") and cast a a light on the corruption that existed in their community.

Now, I'm not so sure.

The corruption within this state is intrinsic...hereditary even.  It is so prevalent, we have come to simply accept it as the modus operandi.

Any reform we saw on a local level, in post-Katrina New Orleans, is a faded dream.  Even the dreamers were defiled.

Pay to play has woven itself into the fabric of our government for so long it's now categorized on the "insiders'" sliding scale of significance.  On the national barometer of corruption, we've actually managed to go so far off the reservation we can't even be quantified....we're an anomaly.

The collusion between the oil and gas industry, the trial attorneys who would have us believe they are fighting for the public's best interest and the politicians who take both of their money is an unholy trinity promising salvation at every turn. 

They lie.  They fucking lie. But we keep buying their bullshit.

If you read this blog...even if you don't...what I hope you will understand is that none of these people have the public's best interest at heart.  It doesn't benefit any of them....any of them....to create a healthy, educated, populous in an environmentally safe Louisiana.  They want idiots and this state is ripe by design.  Idiots more concerned about what two grown men choose to do with their sexuality than a Congressman fleecing a public university.

We are losing everything that is near and dear to our hearts in this state...our higher public education system, our public hospital system, our coastline.....yet we bicker about partisanship instead of actually holding our public officials accountable.

We are trapped inside a juvenile interpretation of the Hegelian Dialectic.

The corruption in this State and City is insulated, obscured, behind the political dichotomy of left/right.  In New Orleans, democrats are protected from prosecution by the local political machine while on the state level republicans' transgressions are overlooked and written off as "minor issues".

They are all stealing public money.  All of them.  They are all using tax dollars as their own 0% interest, no money down, no principle owed...bank.

Bill Cassidy stole money from the state of Louisiana.  Diana Bajoie stole money from the state of Louisiana.  One is a republican, the other a democrat.  Neither one has been prosecuted or even officially investigated.
Patrick Juneau illegally billed the state of Louisiana.  He is not a democrat or republican, he's just an opportunistic old man that will do whatever either reigning "party master" asks him to do in order to enrich his own bank account.

We are standing on the deck of ship, floating in a sea of corruption with no rudder, no mast, no sail, holes in the hull, arguing about the weather while our politicians take the cargo and sail off in lifeboats.

In the matters I listed above, I think the evidence is clear on all fronts, at least enough to justify investigations by our state regulatory officials...the state auditor , state inspector general, state attorney general.

Thing is, I've busted my own ass on at least two of these stories and liberated information on the third while many other reporters busted their ass to do the same.  The Fourth Estate has fulfilled it's duty, not just my small contribution but the body, whole.  The evidence is convincing, overwhelming on the issues listed above.

LSU would never conduct an honest audit on Cassidy.  No university would.  Not Loyola, Tulane, or even UNO as it fades into obscurity.  They are all deeply entrenched in political interests on both city and state levels.  University employees will not talk to their own institution's investigators for fear of losing their job.   These things need to be audited by our state regulatory agencies....it's their job, it's their duty. 

For these regulatory agencies to ignore even one of these issues, much less all three, is a bellwether as to the state of our State.

This...these moments....are where we traditionally fail, Louisiana.  Let's not fail again.  Let's not kick the can down the road and allow business as usual.

We have a problem here.  It's systemic.  It's destructive.  Please.  Please.  Please....investigate.



Anonymous said...

Great post. Try not to lose heart.

You write for other people who, in their own lives, need to feel that their tiny efforts to be ethical mght add up to something someday, or, if not, that those efforts have intrinsic worth.

Your own efforts have intrinsic worth.

Corruption can be sneaky and slippery, invisible, or so blatant that you can`t quite believe you are seeing what you are seeing.

It helps people who feel gaslighted, bankrupted, ruined, or frightened to read blog posts and comments from others who say that what they have felt ``might`` be happening... really is happening.

This gut check confirmation about what is happening to people makes things better for those people, even if you can`t change it or stop the harm at source.

It makes people feel saner.

And, feeling saner, they can keep on trying to do the right thing in their own small and often invisible ways.

To some extent what you have been doing is more like poetry than journalism. True words are medicine.

Poetry and your kind of journalism may not fix the big, sick political culture, but at the level of the individuals who read what you write, what you do is in my opinion actually healing.

You have created a public space for a counter narrative of Louisiana, one where ethical voices are heard all the time.

Even as an archive, should you ever choose to stop for a while, that counter narrative, representative of the true feelings of many, has historical merit, real long term value.

I hope you don`t stop, but if you did, please make sure that archive survives.

You don`t know what the effect of your work is.

If you look only at the big guys whose bad behavior you can`t change with your words to gauge whether or not what you are doing is meaningful, you might despair.

But there are smaller people who have been able to have complete confidence in their own gut instincts about some of the folks you have written about, just because you did write.

When those official people`s misdeeds were unknown or never talked about, it was hard to say ``I don`t trust that guy.`` When you started telling the stories, it became easier.

People have steered away from trouble because you helped them to see that their intuition was correct.

You don`t have to be perfect to be important.

Your sense is that Louisiana is worse than other places. Well, maybe. In some ways, for sure.

But I know some other places very very well, and they aren`t much different under the skin from the places you write about. I`d say some of them are worse off, because they have no journalists like you.

Anonymous said...

Even though I fall under your label of "trial attorney," at least to the extent that it is my occupation, I feel your pain. I have been up and down the coast 40 times, from Texas to Key West since 4/20/2010. I have seen what the spill, BP, Feinberg, Juneau, and the PSC has done to the victims of this horrible, ongoing tragedy. I have seen the mass murder of millions of American workers from asbestos and silicosis that the employers and manufacturers knew were deadly. I have been to big fundraisers where billionaires tell Presidental candidates what they expect for the regular and large payments they are making and what will happen to their donations if they change their tune. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
I would hate to see your blog go, as I know many here would. You have verified what many here thought, but had no proof.
I have something that I am working on that you might be interested in for the same reasons that you started The American Zombie. Contact me and I will tell you about it. I hope this isn't the end of this, but if it is I want to thank you for what you have done!

Ashton O'Dwyer said...

Mr. Berry: If this POST means that you are seriously thinking about QUITTING, please DON'T. I won't mention names, which has already cost me (and perhaps you) DEARLY. Since the MSM and the "establishment", including law enforcement, WILL NOT ACT, "the American Zombie" stands as a bulwark against utter CHAOS and unbridled CORRUPTION. Ashton O'Dwyer.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Anon 1, Thanks...I'm not trying to be perfect I'm simply trying to affect change.

Anon 2, I didn't mean to imply that all trial attorneys are cut from the same cloth as the PSC members I was referring to. I have friends who are trial attorneys and I admire them greatly for the work they do.

I am interested in what you have, you can email me at ashedambala@gmail.com. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Noooo. Please don't go. You are the only "true" light we've had in some of the most desolate and dark times. Can't thank you enough for the work you have done through your blog. You have given many of us hope, left the world we live in a much more honest and open place than when you started your "blog" journey. Wishing many blessings for you and your family no matter where the road of life leads you in the future. Many, may thanks for the positive imprint you have left for us all.

Anonymous said...

Like so many that read and leave comments on your blog, I, too have had personal struggles with this entrenched system of corruption in Louisiana and its multitude of local government entities. In my struggles, I have learned that change is not swift, but it is happening. As other commenters have stated, the change happens on the individual level and thus is not visible on the scale at which we would like it to be. Trust that your efforts are not in vain. They have made a great difference. I, too, hope that you continue. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


I feel your frustration. But, your absence from the scene would be like no water in the desert. Please keep at it. We appreciate your burdens and sacrifices. If I can do anything to help or dissuade you, please let me know, other than golf, as I'm on IR for a few weeks. Best to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year!

Anonymous said...

Please don't go. How can we help you? Those of us who are not asleep?

Jane said...

It's rough being a crusader, and being the one person who seems to care. It's burdensome, tedious, time-consuming, and expensive. It's hard on your life. I could beg you not to go on doing your valuable work, but I certainly couldn't justify the cost to you. Being a candle in the darkness is rough. Please know that you are appreciated and watched.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like someone got to you, or maybe your family. Did someone sue you, or threaten to, or dig up some dirt on you? Not that everybody doesn't have something they don't want the public to know. You post made it seem like something happened though. I didn't get the feeling from your tone that you just got tired of not making a difference. It sounded like someone did something underhanded to put pressure on you to stop. Do tell. Or at least tell us that you are good and just got tired of banging your head against a brick wall.

Jason Brad Berry said...

No one "gets" to me. I simply bemoaning the fact that our justice department and state officials are comatose and refuse to act against criminal activity.

I miss Jim Letten. And somebody in the Boggs building should probably check Polite for a pulse.

Shirley and Carl Bernofsky said...

Your passion to change the world, and more specifically Louisiana, is an ambitious and lofty goal, and while it has not stirred a massive public outcry, you have reached and informed many through your diligent and thorough work. Your disappointment is understandable, but it often takes many years of shining a condemning light on the reprehensible activities of the powerful for change to occur. At the very least, you have both defined a path to follow and inspired others to bring fresh energy to what you have started, thereby raising public awareness to new levels and perhaps even resulting in citizen action. Progress and change can only occur by never giving up.

Anonymous said...

Your pain and frustration are totally understandable, but I hope you won't give up.

You have been a voice of honesty, decency and sanity in this grotesquely corrupt city and you have given hope to many that it may be possible to improve, if not completely clean, the 'Augean stables'.

At the heart of the corruption is lawyers, lawyers who steal from their own clients. The story of what lawyers did to the Wisner family has been told here, but it is only the most egregious example of what lawyers have done to the very people they are supposed to help and protect.

The reflexive guild protectionism, and greed have kept the lawyers who steal from being held accountable for their actions.

But sunlight such as this blog has provided may help put an end to this going forward, if only because people may be made aware that their own lawyer may steal their land if they're not extremely careful.

Anonymous said...

You can't go. We need you. You were a zombie before zombies were cool. You also have the largest internet balls on the planet. I still hold out hope that you will put the Evil Sheriff in your sights and send him to the pokey, or, at least, some how disable the seemingly impenetrable force field he has around him so he will be ruined financially,politically and personally. I do understand your pain. I also have an entirely different view of our justice system than I did several years ago. I thought it was about right and wrong, but it is about politics, money and power. It's never about the truth. You really have done amazing things. What's up with that movie? Is there still going to be a movie?