Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The last ride

"The Last Ride," Chris Rose, Times-Picayune, 11/27/05:

And so he folded his hand. Over the past few weeks, David tore down the barn and sold the horses, kissing each one goodbye before they were led away.

"I've cried more than a few times," he said.

And another by Chris Rose, "Thinking Out Loud", 11/25/05. Hey you New Orleanians back in New Orleans -- do you find yourself doing this too?
I think the guys from the National Guard are tired of waving back at me. But I'm going to keep waving at them.

Earth Viewer

I was trying to find a satellite view of New Orleans at night to see the distribution of lights. I'm sure it must exist, so if anyone knows, please share.

In any event, I found the Earth Viewer Web site which let's you see what the Earth (and moon) look like from just about any remote sensing satellite in space. Very cool. I don't quite understand what the time frame is for when the images were generated.


A Saturday letter in the Times-Picayune, and another on Wednesday call for Louisiana to secede and form "Saudi Acadiana." I think association with the Saudi family is not a great idea, but I've called for a mock secession here. Let's do it out in Jackson Square. Who's with me!

"Saudi Acadiana" should secede:

"60 Minutes" has proven once again what a joke of a program it really is. To feature St. Louis professor Tim Kusky and his unsubstantiated claims about the future of New Orleans is irresponsible at best.

The rest of the country heats their homes upon our backs and yet, when we are almost destroyed by a natural disaster because the feds have not done their job of providing levee protection, they blame us for being stupid enough to live below sea level. And they tell us to simply move.

We are victims of geographic discrimination. And yet they all absorb our culture, food and music -- and suck our land dry for natural resources.

Wake up, Louisiana! We are the Saudi Arabia of America . . . Saudi Acadiana! Let's secede, sell our resources back to the United States and build our own damn protection system.

Maureen Brennan McConnell
New Orleans

Let's go; no one will notice (Letters, 11/30/05):
Re: "'Saudi Acadiana should secede," Your Opinions, Nov. 28.

For weeks I've been telling anyone who would listen that someone ought to get France on the phone and ask if they'll have us back. But I like Maureen Brennan McConnell's idea much better. Why not go it alone?

If the federal government's plan is to ignore us to death, chances are they won't even notice when we leave. And as a destitute foreign country we'd qualify for foreign aid! Then we could join OPEC and cozy up to Venezuela, the only other OPEC member in this hemisphere. That should get us noticed in Washington. But we wouldn't need the foreign aid by then because we could be selling all our oil and natural gas to Japan.

Oh yeah, I forgot. We're still part of it, aren't we? Pity. I'd feel much safer traveling on a Louisiana passport.

Gary Fleming
New Orleans

Guest workers, or indentured labor?

Letter to NPR in response to Tamar Jacoby's opinion on immigration:

In promoting a guest worker program for immigrants, commentator Tamar Jacoby based her argument on a critical assumption which she should have supported with measurable facts.

She said she doesn't "know any families raising their kids to be busboys or farm hands," arguing that native-born workers are increasingly educated. As a result, she said that "people are entering the country illegally to do jobs American workers don't want."

Implicit in her argument is an assumption that Americans think they're too good, or too educated to settle for some kinds of jobs, and that those jobs wouldn't be filled if it weren't for immigrants.


I used to work as a busboy. It was the perfect job for me in high school, and when I left that job, another kid in high school took my place and learned valuable lessons about team work and how to deal with the public. Yes, I left that job to go on to college, but in reality, only about 3 out of every 10 Americans has a college degree. Most of those people could perform the manual labor jobs that immigrants perform -- if they could support a family in those jobs.

People don't want to work as farm hands? I suggest that the shift to larger and larger farms is not only environmentally unsustainable, but socially unsustainable. There's nothing wrong with working on a farm. A lot of people would prefer life on a farm to life in a city. For a variety of reasons, however, a lot of family farms fail and become absorbed into larger and larger factory-type enterprises. One of the reasons for family farm failures is that smaller farms can't compete with corporate agriculture. But much of corporate agriculture wouldn't ever have been possible if it had to pay workers family wages, so it turned to immigrants. Where did those immigrants come from? Many of them came from family farms in their home countries because they couldn't compete with corporate agriculture either.

The problem is not that Americans think they're above doing some kinds of work. It's that those jobs don't pay enough money, and they don't pay enough money, because increasingly, we live in a world where market-based capitalism has been allowed to run rampant -- so much so, that it is dependent upon a constant flow of cheap laborers.

It may be that the United States can sustain 500,000 immigrants a year, and I honestly hope it can support more. I adhere to the belief that immigration does create a dynamic economy, and enriches American culture. I have lived with profoundly impoverished people in developing countries who struggle to support their families, and I would like their prospects for a better life to improve as much as our own.

If the United States is going to continue to be a great nation in which the middle class isn't squeezed out of existence, we may have to re-examine the role that the economy plays in transforming our society -- and societies in other countries. That is a far more challenging prospect than figuring out what to do about immigration, but we if we ask who benefits from cheap labor, we might find the answer we seek to improve life for people everywhere.

Rumsfeld: Don't call them "insurgents"

Perplexed, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked Rumsfeld what else he would call the people responsible for creating IED's that kill American soldiers, and who assassinate Iraqi officials.


Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government. How’s that?

Add your own caption

This NPR photo was simply too good to pass up.

Warning: Bush is "studying" Cat 5 protection

I have to correct myself. I earlier asked if anyone had heard from Donald Powell, our all-mighty recovery czar. Now I just want to say to Powell, "If you don't have anything good to say, then shut the eff up!":

Powell, repeatedly describing his visit as one of "learning" and "discovery," said he is not sure when an administration decision will be made regarding a Category 5 levee system.

"I think it's important to study that," Powell said. "Hopefully, a decision will come sooner than later." ...

Powell said he does not see himself as a chief executive of the recovery effort, but rather a listener and facilitator to carry a message back to Washington.

"My job . . . is to come and to listen and to help convey the message from the local people -- I'll work with people in the towns, parishes, cities and the state -- it will be their vision, the local people's vision, about how to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Hey man -- the local vision is Category 5 storm protection. Every single friggin' person on the street will tell you that. And they'll tell you the commitment needs to happen yesterday. And, by the way, when did you think you might get around to "convey the message" to your village idiot boss. I mean, it took you -- what? Over two months to get here?!

Hot showers!

The temperature inside the house was under 50 degrees -- the thermostat stops at 50. No heat. I was cooking on a little propane camping stove. Multiple layers at night. COLD SHOWERS. ICE COLD. I definitely wasn't dilly-dallying. I did definitely learn something about life before water heaters.

Finally, Monday, Entergy came out to look at the gas meter. See, they've been by to look at it at least 5 times that I can recall. Each time I talked to someone, went to the Entergy office, grabbed an Entergy guy off the street, I got a different story. The last I heard, they were going to have to change the meter because it was under water. To keep me from turning the valve on, they fully disconnected the pipe.

So, Monday rolls around. The guy hooks up the pipe and turns the valve on. I say, "Aren't you going to have to change the meter -- it was under water." He says, "Naw. That shouldn't be a problem."


For weeks, cold showers, soup, MRE's, freezing may ass off!

I try to stay calm, but ... I know, there are people far, far, far worse off than me ... but who needs the aggravation all because of stupidity!

After the guy left, I cranked the water heater, and took my first hot shower in weeks.

Thanks to Katrina Chronicles for reminding me to post the story.

Katrina photos: Mid-City, pt. 3

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Stop warm beer!

Hic ... it's a Quarter crawl to ... hic ... stop global warming. Meet at Razoo's, Saturday at 5:00.

Just remember: Moderation in emissions is a virtue, as is moderation in consumption.

Update (press release):

The Party to Save New Orleans

November 30, 2005, New Orleans - Here in Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans, we’re known for partying. We party for all kinds of reasons. This Saturday, Dec. 3rd, we’re going to party for one of the most important reasons of all: to save our city and region. After two disastrous hurricanes this year, and amid concerns about increasing global warming and its effect on hurricane size and intensity and sea levels, we’re partying to send a message. The New Orleans Group of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Affordable Energy are organizing one of over 60 events taking place worldwide on Dec. 3rd, an “International Day of Action" to bring the world's attention to international global warming discussions taking place in Montreal, Canada, and show support for the U.S. to do its part to reduce global warming pollution.

For the first time ever, the Kyoto Protocol ongoing discussions are taking place in North America. From Nov. 28-Dec.9 world leaders are gathering in Montreal (11th Conference of the Parties) to discuss implementation plans for the Kyoto Protocol in order to meet the first phase of a 5% greenhouse gas reduction between 2008-2012 and to set goals beyond.

So far there has been a lack of constructive participation by the United States, with the Bush Administration refusing to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol citing economic concerns. Nevertheless, the Protocol went into effect last year when Russia signed on. However, many fear that without the United States on board, possibilities for future agreements to reduce global warming pollution could collapse. Other countries may begin to waiver in their commitment to the agreement if the largest contributor to global warming (25%) refuses to participate.

“We are committed to action in addressing our nation’s global warming pollution and encourage our city, state and national leaders to take a stand,” said Micah Walker Parkin, Program Director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy. The Alliance and Sierra Club promote energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, alternative fuel and transportation choices, and smart growth to reduce U.S. dependence on the fossil fuels contributing to global warming and to save people money. These groups and several others are sending letters encouraging Governor Blanco, Mayors Ray Nagin of New Orleans and Kip Holden of Baton Rouge, and Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter to attend the Montreal conference and to be leaders in the effort to stop global warming, given Louisiana’s extreme vulnerabilities. They have been invited by the Canadian Government and organizers of events that will take place along side the conference for these leaders.

The "Save New Orleans, Stop Global Warming!" party is being sponsored by several French Quarter bar owners and the Abita Brewery. Participating bars for the “quarter crawl” include Razzoo’s, The Old Absinthe House, Bourbon Orleans Snooks, and The Original Johnny White’s. Crawlers will meet at 5pm at Razzoo’s and will complete their journey at Bourbon Orleans Snooks for a performance by New Orleans’ own “Country Fried”.

“If we save New Orleans, we’ll also help save our coast, wetlands, wildlife, communities, and one-third of Louisiana’s economic base – that’s a goal worth celebrating!” said Casey Demoss Roberts, Chair of the New Orleans Group of the Sierra Club.

Contact: Micah Walker Parkin 504-258-1247
Casey Demoss Roberts 504-982-0468

Altruist Albaugh: Just lending his shoulder

When George W. Bush's campaign manager and former FEMA director, Joe Albaugh, helps businesses land government contracts, he says he's "just trying to lend my shoulder to the wheel."

Albaugh said that when he helped businesses develop opportunities in Iraq as the founder of New Bridge Strategies, he carried "pictures of close friends who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks as a constant reminder of what we lost that day."

I wonder if he carried around pictures of Hurricane Katrina victims when he helped Halliburton's Kellog, Brown and Root, and the Shaw Group get no-bid contracts for cleanup in Louisiana?

Source: The Washington Post

Justice crumbling?

Day old news, but still worth repeating.

the_velvet_rut thought it possibly prophetic that a piece of the Supreme Court facade fell off, just above the phrase, "Equal justice under law."

The piece that fell was over the figure of Authority, near the peak of the building's pediment, and to the right of the figure of Liberty, who has the scales of justice on her lap.

NPR's amateur hydrogen car story

Letter to NPR commenting on a hydrogen fuel cell car story:

Scott Horsley's story about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles was cute, but irresponsibly misleading. Without substantiating his statement, Horsley said that "hydrogen is abundant." Any 5th grader could probably tell you that the atmosphere is comprised of 78 percent Nitrogen, 21 percent Oxygen, 1 percent Argon. Any remaining gases, like hydrogen, are found in tiny trace amounts.
The reality is that hydrogen *is abundant*, but it's bound up with other atoms in compound molecules, like water. Horsley's statement is irresponsible -- and really quite amateur. Energy companies -- and, consequently, the Bush administration -- love hydrogen fuel cell technology because they know that the only way to produce hydrogen at present is through a methanol steam process using coal or natural gas as the prime material. The process is very inefficient. We'd be better off just running cars on natural gas. Meanwhile, extracting hydrogen gas from water requires more energy than it creates. Hydrogen cars would be wonderful, if they were realistic. Scott Horsley should do more homework next time, and NPR should make better editorial judgments before it airs stories like this.

Previously in PGR, "Why hydrogen?"

Why rebuild New Orleans?

Cheeseheads embrace New Orleanians

As a cheesehead transplant to New Orleans, I had a special appreciation for a father's emotional letter to his daughter after Hurricane Katrina separated them:

The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was to say goodbye to you and your sister when we put you on that plane to Milwaukee.

We already have a guest worker program

It's called ICE -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE agents roamed the streets of New Orleans for weeks while thousands of undocumented workers were hired by FEMA hurricane cleanup contractors -- workers, who, because of their illegal status, work for less, and are taken advantage of. One agent admitted to me that the orders were to NOT do enforcement activities.

Those were jobs that unemployed, displaced locals could have been doing. Contractors lived in tents? So? I bet if you recruited displaced residents at FEMA and Red Cross aid centers around the country, you'd have seen more than enough willing workers.

Thunder in the House
has a good analysis of the hypocrisy behind President Bush's call for a guest worker program.


Jay Root and Aaron Davis, "Undocumented immigrants flock to jobs on Gulf Coast," Sun-Herald.

Rovert Lovato, "Gulf Coast Slaves,", reprinted in

"Undocumented workers catch hell in New Orleans ...," DailyKOS.

"Slaving for Halliburton in New Orleans," New Mexico Indy Media.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Anyone heard from Donald Powell?

You know, he's President Bush's czar for hurricane recovery.


I guess he's busy reading.

Ray, can you hear me now?

Mayor Ray Nagin, talking about setting up a citywide wi-fi network:

This is how technology fuels collaboration, allowing our best ideas to come together so we can speak with one voice.

Ray. Yes, Ray. Look. See, what good is a wi-fi network going to do if it just gets washed away by the next hurricane.

Ray, put your money where your mouth is. Start talking to Governor Blanco, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, (you could probably skip Congressman Bill Jefferson unless he's got about $30 billion in his freezer), and the rest of Louisiana's leadership. You see Ray, you don't need a wi-fi network to "speak with one voice."

What you've gotta do is stop hosting those stupid town hall meetings where you stroke your ego by telling irate residents that you understand what they're going through. Actually, no, I don't think you do know what people are going through, because if you did, then you'd be as pissed as they are that, 3 months after Hurricane Katrina, we still don't have a commitment to build up to Category 5 storm protection. We still don't have a plan in place to finance the rebuilding of the city. We still don't know how high to raise our houses, if, if we decide to risk rebuilding our homes and businesses. We still don't know if we have a functioning court and jails to prosecute looters, drug dealers, and murderers. You are still conspicuously silent about the public school crisis.

In short Ray, you're a lousy mayor, and no wi-fi network is going to divert attention from the far more serious problems, and decisions, that this city's residents are confronting.

Ceci's cute but ...

Rob at realitique was fairly tee'd at The Washington Post for what he called their "snide" editorial about New Orleans, arguing that by not getting their facts right, they were actually performing a disservice.

I see his point. I'm getting a little hot and bothered as well.

I had to get my undies unknotted after reading a Washington Post article appearing on Tuesday.

I'm really sick and tired of out-of-towners trying to write quaint little articles from the perspective of a New Orleanian, while bungling cultural references, and just getting their facts wrong.

Hey, the Post's Ceci Connolly is cute and smart, but I just have to say, Ceci, there are no bayous to return to in the mistakenly-titled "Gradual Return to the Bayou," unless you're talking about Bayou St. John, which is now nothing more than a circumscribed urban creek.

I dare say, I don't think any hipsters "linger over chicory coffee on Magazine Street." Chicory coffee tastes like hot dirt, so there aren't any coffee shops that would serve it except the tourist traps in the French Quarter.

Ceci, it's true that "cars show off a now-ubiquitous bumper sticker: 'New Orleans, proud to crawl home' -- instead of the old favorite, 'New Orleans, proud to call it home,'" but they've been around for years now. I think the bumper sticker you should have seen if you spent more than an hour in the city is, "New Orleans: Proud to swim home."

I know some people will say it Ceci, but please don't repeat it when people say their house was ruined because "that's God's will." Would you say that it was okay to slaughter native Americans and drive them off their land because it was manifest destiny?

And Ceci ... Ceci, Fred Kasten is not "the cool voice of jazz on radio station WWOZ." He has a cheezy soft jazz show on the maddeningly-mediocre NPR affiliate, WWNO. WWOZ would never have him.

Thank you, Ceci, for mentioning it in passing, but the levees "that proved so fallible in Katrina" are not just the "singular obsession of the city's business leaders." The levees have become the MADNESS of EVERY citizen of this city and region. NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT than a PRESIDENTIAL COMMITMENT, NOW, to build CATEGORY 5 protection, and to build it soon. It would have been nice if you conveyed the absolute RAGE that every citizen utters when they think about how the president of the most powerful nation in the world has left one of the most culturally unique cities in the world TO ROT and get washed away in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ceci, check in with local bloggers. We'd love that. At least check your facts with a local on the street. If you're available, I'd be happy to take you around the city to a few of the places that only a person who's lived here for years would know about. That's New Orleans hospitality -- something else you missed in your article.

Are you better off today than you were 6 years ago?

"Back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched."

The punch line is at Mixter's Mix.

Katrina Boneless Chicken Award

It's time to issue another boneless chicken award. The winner for a second time at People Get Ready is George W. Bush, for failing to behave as a real leader should when disaster strikes for chickening out from fulfilling his responsibility when disaster struck and people needed help.

Here we are in New Orleans waiting for any sign at all that the federal government will commit to building Category 5 storm protection. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of residents remain refugees (they are now politically exiled -- no longer just "evacuees"), homeowners are afraid to rebuild, and businesses are keeping their doors closed, all because nobody wants to rebuild knowing full well that the current levee system is entirely incapable of protecting their investments.

Every day that goes by, another resident decides not to return, and another business relocates or shuts its doors forever. The time to announce a guaranteed commitment to Cat 5 protection is right now. Not another day should pass.

If President Bush is just going to leave New Orleans to rot, then he should have the guts to come out and say it so people can move on with their lives. I suggest he make the statement in the same place where he announced the lie that he "would do what it takes ... stay there until the job is done" to rebuild New Orleans -- right in front of New Orleans' oldest church, St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Imagine the public reaction if he actually said he was going to abandon New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico! Instead of admitting the truth that he won't do anything, he's hiding away from the cameras and keeping quiet, hoping that the rest of America won't hear the desperate pleas of Louisiana residents for help.

Yes, the Republican-led Congress can also take some blame, but right now we need a strong executive leader to define a set of goals which include Cat 5 protection, identify the resources to finance those goals, and inspire public opinion to sacrifice in order to achieve those goals.

Given the leadership we've seen from President Bush thus far, three months after Hurricane Katrina, he could only be described as a boneless chicken.

Re-inhabiting New Orleans workshop

We never find out about these things soon enough, and why do they always do this stuff during the day when people have to work!

The challenge of responding to the damage and displacement caused by Hurricane Katrina is enormous. In New Orleans, there is much uncertainty about the state of housing, infrastructure, environmental protection, commercial activity, employment, and the social networks of the city. To address these challenges and draw on the city’s strengths, it is essential to work within a framework of collaboration. In response, you are cordially invited by Xavier University, the Tulane University School of Architecture and the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research to participate in a two-day workshop, Re-inhabiting New Orleans, on November 29-30, 2005. This workshop will provide an opportunity for residents, community-based organizations, architects, urban planners, environmental experts, and local government representatives to work together on long-term recovery strategies for neighborhoods, communities and the city as a whole.

The invitation is a downloadable PDF. Information about presenters can be found at

Gripping account by Katrina survivor

NOLA Rising:

I found this old lady in a one story house, floating on her back, holding on to a piece of furniture calling for help. I told her I came to help her. She said she can't swim.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Fahrenholtz to challenge Nagin

WGNO, ABC channel 26, is reporting that the two-term school board member, Jimmy Fahrenholtz, will run for mayor against Ray Nagin.

I hope he gives Nagin the challenge of his life, although not because I necessarily like Fahrenholtz as a candidate. I don't really have any opinion of him. I'm just happy someone is going to challenge Nagin's leadership. If Nagin is re-elected, at least he'll have been forced to explain his actions, and his plan for the future of New Orleans -- things that have been conspicuously absent from Nagin's public comments since Hurricane Katrina. If he isn't re-elected ... well, I'll just say I don't think we could do any worse. Okay, that's not true either. We could, and have, done much, much worse (Marc Morial? Sydney Bartholemew?).

Nagin seems to have dipped into a morass of indecisiveness and ineffectiveness. I don't understand, for example, why Nagin thinks his time is well spent traveling around the country hosting "Town Hall" meetings where the only thing accomplished is that displaced residents have an opportunity to vent their anger at him. Why not send a representative, hold official press conferences with Q&A time for reporters to keep residents informed, and spend his time more wisely lobbying to get Category 5 storm protection, and coming up with a plan to rebuild the city.

Fahrenholtz's comments about what he would do as mayor were brief, but not surprising:

"I think we desperately need some creative thinking, some leadership with a little more courage than we've seen," Fahrenholtz said.

Fahrenholtz says his campaign will reflect his personality- candid and direct. He wants to get rid of the residency rule, the homestead exemption and what he calls, New Orleans politics.

I know that Fahrenholtz defended New Orleans public schools superintendent, Anthony Amato, against vindictive and counterproductive attacks by other school board members.

I also believe I recall that, a couple of years ago, Fahrenholtz played dumb when the public learned about school board members getting escorted around town by chauffers. Fahrenholtz pleaded something to the effect that he didn't know it was a problem. Doh! It would seem pretty obvious to any normal person who doesn't get to spend taxpayers' money that a chauffer is just too damn expensive for trips to the airport, grocery store, The Bombay Club, or other destinations around town.

Finally, speaking of The Bombay Club, I started noticing a while back that in almost every appearance where Fahrenholtz was in front of a news camera, he was standing outside of ... yep ... The Bombay Club. I haven't seen him do that in a while, but one has to wonder what his day job is. I find it curious then that Fahrenholtz had this to say:
Like alcoholics, we've found ourselves in the gutter. We've found ourselves at the bottom and now we can make ourselves better. We've seen how low we can get now it's time for to make ourselves, remake ourselves, into what we should be.

I don't wish to begrudge the guy an opportunity to relax however he pleases, but I think he might have found a more appropriate backdrop for his interviews. He is on the school board after all.

Katrina casualty count continues to climb

The tragedy continues to unfold:

We are still finding bodies, and we are still fixing coffins.

People get ready!

Meet the Press today spent not more than 3 minutes in passing today talking about New Orleans. The consensus among the panel of journalists was that New Orleans has already been forgotten by the nation, that it's lamentable, and that there's no money to rebuild the city with $200 billion spent in Iraq already, and President Bush's campaign to cut taxes for the wealthy again his top budget priority.

I'm sick of it! People: It's redemption time!

It's time for the people of this nation to redeem their obligation to their fellow citizens of the Gulf Coast. It's time for the people of this nation to come together to combat the lies and promises of a President and a Congress that, once the camera lights dimmed, turned their backs on a city with the most unique and most historic cultural character, turned their backs on a region that supplies nearly 20 percent of the nation's oil, 30 percent of its natural gas, and as much as 25 percent of its seafood. It's time for all Americans to remember their moral duty to hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans who remain exiled from their homes, most of them jobless, many with absolutely no resources to restart their lives.

I am in a rage! I can't believe this is happening. I can't believe that Americans would allow this to happen. I can't believe that New Orleans will become nothing more than a strip of land along the river, with scattered little shanty towns where people wager their homes and livelihoods against another disaster, and the whole city at risk of being completely destroyed in the inevitable direct hit Category 5 storm, after the busiest and most powerful hurricane season on record showed us its fury, and with many more future hurricane seasons anticipated to be just as active.

I've said it before in this forum many times, and I'm not the only one saying it. A chorus is shouting it. It's the new gospel: People will NOT return to this city, businesses will NOT return to this city, if there is NO commitment to fortify storm protection and rebuild the city. We need a rock solid, gold standard guarantee to:

1) Promise that the New Orleans area will never, ever, flood again by committing NOW to building Category 5 storm protection.

2) Help rebuild people's homes and businesses in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast.

I know that these issues are on the lips of every person who lives here. It's been 3 months. Nothing is happening. We need action on these issues immediately. Every day that passes, another family decides not to return, and another business shuts its doors or relocates.

I don't know what it will take to get Americans to listen, and to force the President and Congress to make good on their promises and their obligations to this region, but I think we need to make ourselves and our concerns heard by the rest of the nation. We're past the point of just writing letters. We need to make ourselves more visible and amplify our voices by joining together and staging a massive demonstration.

Who among you are sick of the failed leadership? Who among you are tired of the lies and empty promises? Who among you are ready to stand up and be counted?

I propose a demonstration -- maybe a march from Jackson Square to one of the breached levees, or a mock secession in Jackson Square, or the longest jazz funeral march in history, carrying a coffin for the city.

What will it take? Where is the resolve? Who will join? How soon can we act?

Let's move forward.

People! Get ready!


The Washington Post printed an opinion piece today written by the editor of The Times-Picayune, Jim Amoss.

I know that most people who read People Get Ready must think I'm a raving lunatic. They wouldn't be mistaken. The reality is, we're all raving lunatics here, impatiently waiting for the federal government to say the words we need to hear.

Amoss pleads, "Do Not Forsake Us":

At the site of the worst urban disaster in American history, we are a city obsessed. Rebuilding New Orleans is our breakfast-table conversation, our lunchtime chatter, our pillow talk. But while we talk, we also wait. ...

We are waiting for Congress and the federal government to decide that New Orleans deserves strong levees -- stronger than the sorry system, designed and built by the Army Corps of Engineers, that collapsed, wrecking our neighborhoods. We want word from Washington that a great American city will not be left to die.

Amoss describes what the city looks like, naming the very street I live on as the dividing line between light and dark:
New Orleans has become two cities -- an enclave of survivors clustered along the Mississippi River's crescent and a vast and sprawling shadow city where the water stood, devoid of power and people.

The ancient heart -- the French Quarter and Uptown -- is throbbing with commerce and signs of life from the hardiest returnees. But cross Freret Street, and you enter a dim realm. ...

The vastness of this destruction is almost impossible to fathom.

Amoss ends with the New Orleans mantra:
Without a substantial levee system, homeowners won't muster the confidence to rebuild, and businesses will not see fit to invest.

President Bush was still smarting from the embarrassing federal response to Katrina when he stood in the heart of our city and made his promise to rebuild. It would be a greater embarrassment to an entire nation if that promise went unfulfilled.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Katrina photos: Mid-City, pt. 2

When I go out to photograph, I'm often doing it early in the morning before I go to work. On this visit to Mid-City, my eye was drawn more to personal objects found in the mountains of trash. When I do this, I try to take pictures of the objects undisturbed, as I found them.

Fire the tar for Heitmeier

State Sen. Francis Heitmeier, once the state authority overseeing the activities of parish levee boards, and a former Orleans Parish Levee Board Chairman (if memory serves me), was never interested in levee fortification before he proposed a bill to leave the OPLB in charge of its marinas, airport, and police force. Why then his sudden interest in getting money for hurricane-protection projects?

Maybe because he likes using taxpayer money for his family-and-friends graft plan.

He certainly never had any sense of responsibility for the integrity of the levees:

[Peggy] Wilson and the many other critics of the levee board may not understand the group's purpose, Heitmeier said. "The levee board does not build the levees down here. The Corps of Engineers builds the levees. The Corps of Engineers inspects the levees. The levee board cuts the grass," Heitmeier said. "That's what they do. They cut the grass.

... oh ... er ... yeah, unless you want to talk about writing sweet contracts to overbill taxpayers for insurance, and to build bridges to casinos.

Hat tip: World Class New Orleans.

Bring out more tar and feathers

The Times-Picayune is naming the ten greater New Orleans representatives who voted against ending the corrupt local parish levee boards, consolidating them into one regional entity:

Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers;
N.J. Damico, D-Marrero;
Bobby Faucheux, D-LaPlace;
Nita Hutter, R-Chalmette;
Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans;
Charmaine Marchand, D-New Orleans;
Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans;
Kenneth Odinet, D-Arabi;
Gary Smith, D-Norco, and
Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chasse.

Four others didn't vote:
Tim Burns, R-Mandeville;
Alex Heaton, D-New Orleans;
Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, D-New Orleans, and
Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans

Everyone in southeast Louisiana ought to be raving mad.

The Times-Picayune, in rare form, is calling on citizens to hold them all accountable:
To find mailing addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for them, go to the Legislature's Web site at and click on "Legislators" at the top of the home page. From there, click on "How do I contact my state Senators and Representatives" and follow the links to a list for each chamber.

Is post-Katrina crime about to increase?

The Times-Picayune today reported that Jabar Gibson, hailed by some people as a "hero" for commandeering a bus and shepherding 60 Fischer housing development residents to Houston, was booked yesterday for possession of heroin with intent to distribute. I guess that could put a chill on his movie deal. I think it's a little suspicious that those people needed to be evacuated, or that commandeering a bus was "heroic" -- the Fischer project is in Algiers on the West Bank of the Mississippi, which didn't flood at all. Granted, I'll accept the argument that there may have been a shortage of food and potable water. It's hard to say -- I wasn't there.

At the gas station today, a guy asked me for change for food. Yeah, it's always uncomfortable. I almost always stick to my gut reaction and never succumb, unless it's a kid asking. The last time I gave a guy money (5 or 10 dollars) for "gas," I later saw him soliciting more people for money. People like that make people like me mean-spirited and unwilling to spontaneously help those who really need the help. The guy who asked me for money today has no reason to need money for food. There's food being given away all over town by the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, churches and other charities. Furthermore, it barely deserves mention, I'll bet I could have pointed to a half-dozen signs on the neutral ground offering jobs paying a minimum of $10 an hour. I think the fact that someone approached me for money today is one more sign that things are getting back to (ab)normal.

Last night, 3 or 4 police cars went racing down the street with lights and sirens. It's the first time I've heard sirens since I've been back to New Orleans.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a report of a woman stabbed in the Marigny, in the home of a writer, who was found beaten and in critical condition. The stabbing was attributed to a domestic dispute in the next day's paper. Yesterday, the paper only said that there was no sign of forced entry, which doesn't necessarily mean that the victims didn't know the perpetrator. Yesterday's article also noted that a 25-year-old man was gunned down as he sat behind the wheel of a Dodge Stratus in the 900 block of LeBoeuf Street. Well now, that's interesting -- that's the same neighborhood in the Fischer project where the bus driver "hero" was dealing heroin.

As I drive around town, I'm seeing more of the poorer parts of the city being populated. Unfortunately for law-abiding residents of those neighborhoods, as for the rest of the city, those are also the areas where criminals concentrate. Where there's poverty, there's sure to be crime. It's sad, but that's just the truth. What's even more troubling is my hunch that many of the people from relatively poor neighborhoods who are likely to not return are those who were able to find jobs wherever they evacuated. The remainder who return may not be people who have skills or a work ethic.

I've also been seeing people living on the streets with shopping carts. I don't particularly mind them, as long as they're harmless, and not living on my street -- but it's another sign that the crime-free semi-idyllic island we were living on for a few weeks is about to change.

The obituary pages in the weeks after Katrina were almost exclusively populated with people who were seniors when they passed away. This past week, 3 or 4 of the obituaries are people 30 years old or younger - and yes, every one that I've seen in that age bracket were black males.

My fear, as I've stated elsewhere, is that drug dealers will move back into the city to try to establish their turf before their competitors do, as will other criminals, before the police figure out what's happening. I'm still hearing reports of looting -- especially in raised homes, or homes with second floors, so there has always been a cadre of criminals in the city. I suspect there may be more looting in the coming weeks. Hopefully, the arrest of the heroin dealer in the Fischer project is a sign that the New Orleans Police Department is ready to handle crime.

Dark New Orleans, pt. 2

Another view of New Orleans at night. This view faces north toward Lake Pontchartrain, overlooking Metairie in Jefferson Parish, on the west side of the 17th Street Canal. New Orleans is on the east side of the canal. The floodwall was breached on the New Orleans side of the canal.

Photo: Alex Brandon, The Times-Picayune, 11/25/05.

IED fatalities on the increase

Not the Country Club has a sobering chart of IED fatalities in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq has surpassed 2100. Spending on the Iraq War and reconstruction has now cost the American taxpayer an estimated $222 billion ... er, well, yeah, technically it's costing China that much now. Our kids will have to pay the Chinese back.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Where'd we put that barrel of tar?

"So ... what exactly are you doing to inspect the levees?"

"Ahh ... we're doing ... something."

Jerry Colletti, a Corps of Engineers operations manager for completed works, quoted in The Times-Picayune:

Our maintenance people, when they're in the area, our field folks, our construction division people -- they're keeping an eye out for certain things.

"Certain things?! So, basically, you're saying that the guys who cut the grass are qualified to know whether the levees are structurally sound? Nobody actually checks water table levels, does soil samples, or does structural integrity checks, or any of the other things that engineers are supposed to do? Oh, you say that happens during the annual inspection? Okay ... so what exactly do you do in that annual inspection?"

"Well, now that's a big job. See, me & the boys git out there with our trucks and go around. Oh, yeah, it's a regular convoy. 30 ve-hicles. And we go out and have a look-see. You know, kinda eyeball the sit'iation. But we get pretty hungry doin' all that drivin' around and lookin'. So we plan to wrap things up and get to lunch by 1:15."

The Times-Picayune:
Records of the annual Levee Board and corps inspections show that they are fairly hasty affairs, with dozens of officials piling onto a convoy of vehicles to drive along the levees, stopping at various points for visits of 15 to 30 minutes. They review areas between stops from the cars.

Residents around the New Orleans area might be excused if they got a little bit angry for picking up the lunch tab ... and then some.

Good work Gordon Russell, staff writer at The Times-Picayune!

Katrina photos: Mid-City, pt. 1

I helped friends move refrigerators out of their homes weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Did you know that rotten eggs are highly explosive -- and when they explode it sounds like a gun was fired? It's too bad there's no way to post smells.

Mmmm ...

Nice closeup.

A table passed down through the family from a great grandfather, on the trash pile.

Lost family memorabilia -- school pictures and other items of significance in the life of a child in school.

Very skittish, scared homeless dog looking for food. Mercifully, the owner of the house in the picture leaves out food and water.

Brownie's heckuva job consulting

Arabian horse's ass and fired FEMA director Michael Brown has advice for disaster planners in his new disaster consulting firm: Appearances are more important than actual results.

Officials need to "take inventory" of what's going on in a disaster to be able to answer questions to avoid appearing unaware of how serious a situation is.

Your job as a disaster planner is choir leader. Don't get involved in the details. If people didn't prepare for the unthinkable, that's just their own fault:
Hurricane Katrina showed how bad disasters can be, and there's an incredible need for individuals and businesses to understand how important preparedness is.

Here are more of Michael Brown's recommendations gleaned from his own experience:
  • Roll up your sleeves to make it look like you're working.
  • Complaints of rustic public toilet facilities should not be heeded. Being close to nature is next to Godliness.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to dine and relax.
  • When the going gets tough, blame the victims for becoming victims.
  • Domestic concerns like finding a pet-sitter should take precedence over disaster relief.
  • Be wary of private contributions of material and services -- give yourself at least a few days before you decide to accept anything.
  • Don't take seriously warnings of people dying and serious riots due to lack of food, water, and shelter -- that's just whining. It'll pass in a few days after people get used to the conditions. Just tell your colleagues you're taking their concerns into consideration.
  • Have a large wardrobe on hand. You'll want to change attire often for dinner engagements and photo ops. Nordstroms recommended.
  • Have a makeup person on hand for photo ops.
  • Whatever you do, don't send supplies directly into a disaster area. Instead, have them sent to as wide a distribution area as possible.
  • Don't waste your time with news -- it's biased and can make things seem worse than they really are.
  • Keep in mind that you won't want to go directly into a disaster area because there won't be any fast food burger joints open.
  • Problems happen. When attention starts to focus on you, complain about how hard your job is. Asking subordinates when you can quit is a good tactic and may also boost morale.

Michael Brown's emails can be read in pdf form at CNN.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Something to be thankful for?

Consider a story a chaplain told me about one elderly man who stayed through Hurricane Katrina. He had survived hurricanes before, and in any event, he had never left the city for any reason. He didn't know where to go, or if he could afford to leave. As he slept, water rose inside his house. He woke up. When he put his feet on the floor, the water was up to his knees. When he made to the bathroom, the water was up to his hips. By the time he made it to the attic, the water was up around his shoulders. When he broke out of the attic, the entire house was forced off of its foundation, only stopping when it ran into a tree. There he remained, on his roof, dodging debris, for a day and a half. I was told that storm surge up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet was applying so much pressure that water was blasting out of the levee breach at 12 feet per second. Having seen the devastation, having seen a wasteland of houses, crumpled and reduced to splinters, I can believe that the force of water must have been phenomenal, overwhelming many residents who survived the hurricane but not the flooding.

Something to be thankful for?

Consider the hundreds of thousands of New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents who have remained exiled, homeless, and jobless, for three months. How are they spending their Thanksgiving?

The Mrs. and I are thankful that we survived the storm, and that we have a home that barely made it through the flooding. We are grateful that we still have jobs. We are grateful that we can feel a sense of guilt for being spared when hundreds of thousands of our fellow residents were not.

This is also the year when I think it should be said that I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to live in New Orleans. For all of the very real pain and grief it has caused me -- a sort of right of passage I think -- it has also filled my senses and stirred my imagination. I've always had a love-hate relationship with the city. There's so much to get frustrated about, but there's also so much to like. Hurricane Katrina really made me think hard about my feelings for the city, and the conclusion? I love this city! And I love the people in it! I love the neighborhoods, the food, the restaurants, the mix of culture, the music, Carnival season, the parks, the spectacular light.

This Thanksgiving, I know it's impossible to ask, but truly hope that all New Orleanians, all Louisianians, all Gulf Coast evacuees, have a warm place to lay their heads, and warm food, lovingly prepared, to fill their bellies.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thinking about my love for New Orleans, here are a couple more variants on the "New Orleans: Proud to call it home" bumper stickers, a sticker promoting "America's Wetland," a vital campaign to restore Louisiana's marshes and coast, and the city's "I Care" campaign bumper sticker.

Finally, on the back of my pickup: