Orinda, Calif.

A little ditty to be sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum”: O Schadenfreude, O Schadenfreude. Look out, poor Scooter Libby. In this morass, your ass is grass. You told a big fat fibby.



I congratulate Scooter Libby. He stepped out from Cheney’s shadow into a highly lucrative spotlight, just like Gordon Liddy and Ollie North, true American entrepreneurs, who tapped into a winning formula: a big betrayal plus a little time equals a whole lot of moola-la. Who cares if tens of thousands of brown people die? Divide the number of dead by three-fifths of a person, and it’s not that big a deal. The big number is the paycheck at the end of the indictment. Eyes on the prize, Libby, eyes on the prize.


Army Bay, Auckland, NZ

Time for the chicken hawks to come home to noose.


Lakeview, Ore.

We rural folk see a familiar problem–and solution. Liars and thieves in and around the Bush Administration are multiplying like feral (fat) cats. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough sacks and rocks, or a deep enough pond. At least Nixon did the honorable thing.


Escondido, Calif.

OK, so virtually the entire leadership of the Republican Party is facing indictment or investigation for crimes that include outing a CIA agent, lying to get us into a war, war profiteering, insider trading, criminal conspiracy, money laundering, campaign-finance fraud, violations of election laws and other crimes too numerous to name. Nevertheless, surely these same people would stop short of rigging voting machines to steal elections. Yeah, right!



Madison, Wisc.

Hurricane Gumbo” by Mike Davis and Anthony Fontenot [Nov. 7] was an enjoyable, interesting, powerful article. I was born in New Orleans but moved here to Madison because of my father’s job. We often came back to visit relatives in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and we also visited Cajun country. It was, then as now, a special place with special people. The article is an excellent piece of writing–and the cover had me drooling!


Alameda, Calif.

“Hurricane Gumbo” is what America was, people helping people. Not depending on the government for help. Lesson 101 in life: never depend on the government, depend on yourself. This is the old-time America, and this is the way it should be. Having “company” and taking care of people in a crisis. That is the way I have always lived. The poor people can always add another potato to the pot and invite company into their homes. We can always find another bed and a blanket, or if necessary find a place on the floor for someone to sleep. I’ve taken groceries to friends in need, even when I was living from paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve always been blessed. Thank you for the wonderful article. I want to meet these people. I would truly belong.


Hampton Bays, NY

“Hurricane Gumbo.” It hurt to read that. That is what I once believed all America was like. Today that America lives on only in exceptional communities like Evangeline Parish. Bush & Co. must fear their spirit of love, sense of community and the shining example they set for the rest of us.


Fort Bragg, Calif.

Reports say multinational corporations like Mr. Cheney’s Halliburton are being given no-bid contracts for repair and reconstruction work in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. This, rather than using local firms and local displaced workers and the Bush Administration’s efforts to remove minimum-wage requirements, makes one think of its direct opposite: De Witt Clinton building the Erie Canal.

Peter Bernstein, in Wedding of the Waters, reports that a “crucial decision” of the canal commission was “to assign as much of the digging as possible to local people instead of enlisting a limited group of large-scale contractors.” The “great ditch” across New York was the world’s largest such undertaking at that time, some 400 miles through dark forests and rugged mountains. In 1826 it was completed on schedule, within budget. That was almost 200 years ago. Are those days gone forever?



The Villa Platte Shelter is now placing the last of the 3,000 families left homeless in Villa Platte by Hurricane Katrina. “I have about three families left, and they’re all going to wake up on Thanksgiving morning in their own home,” says Jennifer Vidrine, shelter coordinator, who has managed to find houses and apartments provided by parish residents. FEMA, which finally arrived in mid-November, has trailers, but to date no one has access to them. Vidrine notes, “It’s amazing, the government money that’s being wasted. FEMA has twenty telephones, two computers and two printers, guarded by twenty-four-hour security contracted to Blackwater.” She also notes that Blackwater is “good at what they do. They just don’t have nothing to do in a place where we all leave our doors open.” To thank Nation readers for their generous donations, Vidrine sends the recipe for Hurricane Gumbo, which the shelter will be serving on Thanksgiving. “On behalf of everyone here at the shelter, says Vidrine, Merci beaucoup.”    –The Editors

1 cup oil
1 cup flour
2 large onions, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1⁄2 cup parsley, chopped
1⁄2 cup green onions, chopped
2 lbs. smoked sausage, sliced
Garlic, cut or diced, to taste (optional)
2 lbs. shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 lb. peeled crab meat
1 qt. oysters
1 qt. oyster water
Salt & pepper to taste
4 qts. water

Make a roux (you can buy Kary’s Roux in a jar, but a homemade roux makes the best gumbo) by browning flour in oil until dark brown, the darker the roux, the stronger the gumbo (this takes 6-12 minutes). Stir roux constantly so it won’t burn. Do not leave roux unattended–do not answer the phone or the door while cooking the roux–the roux will burn.

In a large pot, add water, onions, bell pepper, celery, parsley, green onions, garlic and the roux. Cook together at medium heat until seasoning is soft and clear (about 1 hour); add sausage midway in the cooking. Then add shrimp, crab meat, oysters and oyster water. Reduce heat to low and cook slowly for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice. Serves 12.

Gumbo notes: You may also use a cut-up hen instead of seafood; put in hen at the beginning with all the seasoning and cook to a boil for an hour.



Marietta, Ga.

I am a 1960s-born Southern girl with roots that stretch far into Georgia’s red dirt. My father married my mother in the 1950s. Their courtship was a scandal back then, as my dad was from the wrong side of the tracks. My mother’s father, an entrepreneur who made lots of money from his own drugstores, raised my mother in a celebrity-type atmosphere in a northwestern suburb of Atlanta. My father, on the other hand, worked graveyard shifts to pay for his college and law school. He became one of the most influential lawyers in our state.

I have always been proud of my Southern roots. Although I’ve lived in many other areas, I always felt a connection to the South. However, I swore I would never return and live in my hometown. One reason is the conservative Republicanism that not only took over my town like kudzu but also twined its way around my state, now strangling in its own brand of GOP.

I was raised in a liberal-thinking household. Dinner table talks concentrated on the world and how we could help those who were less fortunate. Racial discrimination was still a huge problem in the South, but my parents never tolerated any of “that” talk. My mother was asked to be a guest speaker at our schools, where my siblings and I debated our peers, standing up for our parents’ way of thinking. When my church youth group began debates and I agreed with my parents’ thinking–that everyone, no matter what sex, race, color or ethnicity are equal–I discovered, quickly, what discrimination felt like. I did not like it one bit, especially as a teenager!

So, I did not want to return to my hometown and raise children. But things happened, and I ended up back in my same northwest suburb of Atlanta. Believing that the way to make a difference is to work with kids, I went into school counseling. Now politics have invaded even this precious hope I held on to. The No Child Left Behind Act has driven true counseling to its death. Discouraged and frustrated, I resigned from school counseling, betrayed by my government. How can we help our youth? How can we raise them to carry on the democracy that the United States has symbolized for years? Am I the only one who believes that good, solid, strongly supported school counseling programs–not metal detectors and armed police–are what we need in schools?

I am so depressed by these thoughts and feel truly beaten down. I have fought my battles with myself, saying that Georgia isn’t full of uneducated rednecks, that Georgians are for the most part forward thinking, nondiscriminating people. But so many times I want to throw my hands up and say, “I give up.” Then my don’t-give-up attitude says, “Don’t let them win.”

The last straw was Hurricane Katrina. I was shocked and appalled by the horrible things I heard, like, “Now we’re going to have to pay for all those black people” and “this is all their fault for not leaving when they were told.” My Japanese friend told me her mother called from Japan to ask her what country New Orleans was in. She’s an educated woman, but she thought New Orleans must be in a Third World country because no one was helping to rescue those people.

What does this have to do with The Nation? A lot. I want to thank you for giving me hope. When my Nation shines in my mailbox, I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s truly “comfort food” for me. I just wish I could make it mandatory reading for all. My hope pops up over and over as I read, realizing that yes there really are people out there who think like me! And please know that there are people in the South like me, who think like you.



In “Faith and Fraud” [Nov. 21], Jonathan Schell repeats the statement–cited everywhere from the New York Times to the Guardian to CNN to the Daily Kos and elsewhere–that the Scooter Libby indictment is the first to reach into the White House since 1875. In fact, Raymond Donovan, President Reagan’s Labor Secretary, was indicted for grand larceny in 1984.