By : Brian Boyles, New Orleans It was getting a little too possible, you know? That we might make it, that whatever the forces leveled at our survival, they were internal, fixable, matters of fairness or racial understanding or budgeting. We could do that, couldn't we? The Saints won, didn't they? We all shared that memory--a new memory, a positive outcome, a colorblind embrace. And whatever the lingering bitterness of ousted politicos, we had a new administration and some hope. The recovery was over, long live the reinvention!

And then the Shortcut Gang hits us with the heart punch. Again.

The Shortcut Gang consists of deregulators, lazy executives, paid-off politicians, and the entire anti-government shakedown party. The oil companies are the Tweeds for the Gang, pulling strings in order to consume dollars and nations unencumbered. Larger than even the Last Superpower, Tweed is in Indonesia, in Nigeria, in Houston. The less rules, the better. Short-term gain, fuck the long term, fuck accidents, fuck workers on the rig. You sit around playing with your dick about safety and the environment, you get lapped by some state-owned bastards out of Moscow or Beijing.

For a very long time, the Shortcut Gang worked away at the rope connecting government to commerce, wearing off the details, the quality checks, the back-up plans that are the basic function of a capitalist government. Those things make sure the machine runs smoothly, but the Gang doesn't want smooth. They want fast and they want more. If it gets rough, well, they can ride with that. But rough for them may mean a good hard lay for some middle-aged chick in the MMS office, maybe a bathroom snort or a complimentary hotel room. None of this Planning bullshit, though. Leave that to academics and Libs.

So the shit hits the fan in the part of the country most accustomed to this way of doing things. Louisiana is as close to an oil kingdom as any in the Union, wide-open to the industry which pays the state enough to minimize income tax and fatten up the fellas in Baton Rouge. At least 100 years of this deal has left us poor but happy, with a lot less land than we started with. If Huey hadn't forced their hand, we wouldn't even have that.

Then this happens and now we face losing that part of our state that makes all the rest possible--the Gulf. The food, the federal money, the music--it all comes from the Gulf, when you think about it. We eat seafood and spice, watch politicians make bank from new bridges and levees, and serve as the northern most port of the Caribbean. The Gulf is the essential fact for understanding this part of the world.

And now the Gulf has cancer. Now we all sit in the waiting room, the most glorious, flower-laden, musical waiting room in the world, full of busty women and the new energy of post-Katrina New Orleans, but a waiting room cast with the usual pall of foreboding and antiseptic. We wait for the doctor to come out and tell us one outlandish story after another, of mud and top hats and diamond saws and British fops and dispersants. Well-accustomed to this torturous, media-narrated humiliation, we brace for another fucked up summer.

Whenever the oil stops flowing, we'll be sitting next to a big pot of toxic stew. Obama says he'll be there with us. But at night, when the smell of oil blows in and the shrimpers are dead in the water, a way of life gutted by the Shortcut Gang, a way of life that might've been the last vestige of America as it once was, a free place of hustle, hard work and hard party, then it will feel very lonely. No lawsuit, no speech, no shortcut will replace what is now lost. Then it will feel very lonely, indeed.