Friday, March 31, 2006

Remembering the good old days at Newcomb

Well now that a federal judge ruled on Thursday against Newcomb students and alumnae trying to keep Tulane President Scott Cowen from closing the 120-year old women's college, Newcomb might want to forego the "Getting to Know Newcomb Skit" scheduled for next week, and instead focus on the "Newcomb Student/Alumnae Tea," where stories will be shared about what Newcomb and Tulane were like in the past -- back in the good old days before Herr Cowen appointed himself chancellor.

Upcoming Katrina events

Rally to protect the right of evacuees to vote
Ernest Morial Convention Center
Saturday, April 1st
9 a.m.

The rally will begin at the Convention Center parking lot, 9 a.m., Saturday, April 1st, and participants will march across the GNO bridge to Oakwood Mall. There will be a significant presence of police along the route to maintain order. Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby will speak at the rally. I don't have any additional information -- I couldn't find anything online. This is word of mouth, but I did confirm the event with ACORN.

In the Vietnamese Community

Mary Queen of Vietnam Church
5069 Willowbrook Drive
New Orleans, LA 70129
Phone: 504-254-5660
Fax: 504-254-9250
Sunday, April 2, 11:15 a.m. -- mayoral candidates forum
Sunday, April 9, 11:15 a.m. -- council candidates forum
New Orleans East—April 2, 2006 and April 9, 2006 – The Vietnamese Community in New Orleans will hold its first Mayoral Candidate Forum on April 2, 2006 at 11:15 am, followed by its first City Council candidate forum the next Sunday on April 9, 2006 at 11:15 am.

We have eighteen mayoral candidates confirmed for the forum on April 2nd and twenty city councilor candidates representing District C, E and At-Large on April 9th.

Both forums will take place at: Mary Queen of Vietnam Church 14001 Dwyer Blvd. New Orleans, LA 70129

An increasingly large number of the Vietnamese community have returned home over the past few months. The community is prepared for a comprehensive rebuilding and revitalization. However basic needs essential for repopulation such as schools and hospitals are still not available. Candidates will have the opportunity to present their platform as well as address issues pertaining to the returning community.

For information:
Contact: or Au Huynh at
Phone: 504-254-5660

Prejudice & Stereotyping Through the Lens of Katrina
Boggs Hall Room 239
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
12:00 PM - 01:00 PM
Janet Ruscher of the Psychology Department will present as part of the "Perspectives on Katrina" series. Box lunches provided to the first 25 attendees. Admission is free of charge. This event is open only to members of the Tulane Community (blah blah blah). For more information, call or e-mail Celeste Uzee at 247-1671 or respectively.

Thanks for the pond, Ron

According to criteria used by the Department of the Interior for counting the nation's wetlands -- which allow destruction of natural habitat to be offset by man-made ponds -- the pond trap built into Ron Forman's Audubon golf course expansion has contributed to "the first net increase in wetlands since the Fish and Wildlife Service started measuring them in 1954."


Related: Monkey on a stick

Pre-screened contractors


Justice after Katrina

A beautiful graphic used to promote a The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition rally last December.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Carnival and revolution

Can New Orleans' carnival tradition be extended into the realm of radical transformation of society and government? Can New Orleanians stage a revolt that ripples through City Hall, Baton Rouge, the halls of Congress, and the Oval Office? Can New Orleanians finally shine light on the debacle of doublespeak and lies coming out of the White House that are devastating lives and communities?

Consider the following excerpted essay by Umberto Eco:

Carnival, in order to be enjoyed, requires that rules and rituals be parodied, and that these rules and rituals already be recognized and respected. One must know to what degree certain behaviors are forbidden, and must feel the majesty of the forbidding norm, to appreciate their transgression. Without a valid law to break, carnival is impossible. During the Middle Ages, counterrituals such as the Mass of the Ass or the coronation of the Fool were enjoyable just because, during the rest of the year, the Holy Mass and the true King's coronation were sacred and respectable activities. The Coena Cypriani quoted by Bachtin, a burlesque representation based upon the subversion of topical situations of the Scriptures, was enjoyed as a comic transgression only by people who took the same Scriptures seriously during the rest of the year. To a modern reader, the Coena Cypriani is only a boring series of meaningless situations, and even though the parody is recognized, it is not felt as a provocative one. Thus the prerequisites of a 'good' carnival are: (i) the law must be so pervasively and profoundly introjected as to be overwhelmingly present at the moment of its violation (and this explains why 'barbaric' comedy is hardly understandable); (ii) the moment of carnivalization must be very short, and allowed only once a year (semel in anno licet insanire); an everlasting carnival does not work: an entire year of ritual observance is needed in order to make the transgression enjoyable.

Carnival can exist only as an authorized transgression (which in fact represents a blatant case of contradicto in adjecto or of happy double binding -- capable of curing instead of producing neurosis). If the ancient, religious carnival was limited in time, the modern mass-carnival is limited in space: it is reserved for certain places, certain streets, or framed by the television screen.

In this sense, comedy and carnival are not instances of real transgressions: on the contrary, they represent paramount examples of law reinforcement. They remind us of the existence of the rule.

Carnivalization can act as a revolution (Rabelais, or Joyce) when it appears unexpectedly, frustrating social expectations. But on the one side it produces its own mannerism (it is reabsorbed by society) and on the other side it is acceptable when performed within the limits of a laboratory situation (literature, stage, screen ...). When an unexpected and nonauthorized carnivalization suddenly occurs in 'real' everday life, it is interpreted as revolution (campus confrontations, ghetto riots, blackouts, sometimes true 'historical' revolutions). But even revolutions produce a restoration of their own (revolutionary rules, another contradicto in adjecto) in order to install their new social model. Otherwise they are not effective revolutions, but only uprisings, revolts, transitory social disturbances.

In a world dominated by diabolical powers, in a world of everlasting transgression, nothing remains comic or carnivalesque, nothing can any longer become an object of parody (see Animal House: but finally Blutarsky becomes a U.S. Senator).

Umberto Eco, "The frames of comic 'freedom'," _Carnivale!_, Ed. Thomas A. Sebeok. Berlin: Mouton, 1984.

Nod: Steve Q.

Related: Disaster, Carnival, and Revolution

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New Orleans' shifting radio market

New Orleans has been granted a Nielsen ratings reprieve for now, but once ratings return to a city with less than half its original population, some stations may not survive. It's exciting, because stations are now trying to reposition themselves for a changing market.

I don't know if either of these stations existed before, but I encourage people to listen in.

The Rajun Cajun, KLRZ Larose, 100.3 plays mostly zydeco with a sprinkling of country. I became fascinated with the station last week when, before 6 AM (I think), I heard them broadcasting a Catholic mass in cajun french -- my God, what a concept!!! It's amazing! This is what radio ought to be.

New Orleans Martini, 106.1 -- okay, it's a really stupid station name, but I heard them play Pete Fountain this morning! Can you imagine? What? A *New Orleans* radio station actually playing *New Orleans* music? What a revolutionary idea!!!

Hurricane Anne

Women of the Storm is a Category 5 now.

The Times-Picayune:

The local group is joining hands with four national groups: the Association of Junior Leagues International Inc., the National Council of Jewish Women, The Links Inc. and the Women's Initiative of the United Way.

"We are going from 140 to 300,000 women across the country. That's huge. It's mind-boggling," said Anne Milling, founder of the New Orleans group.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March against crime

Whew! I sure am glad the flier says not to bring guns -- in case anyone from the Archdiocese of New Orleans shows up!

Serve New Orleans, not Rome

Archbishop Hughes defended the decision to send armed off-duty law enforcement officers into a mass celebration at St. Augustine Church:

Hughes said the archdiocese requested the armed security. "That's not unusual when we're faced with a situation that, as it turned out to be, could be risky to the safety of others," he said. Maestri and Jacques felt intimidated, Hughes said, and the situation "became potentially violent." He said the two priests feared their car windows might be smashed by protesters following them out.

Violence? The press account states that protestors were holding up signs and singing "We Shall Not Be Moved."

How about working together to come up with a solution instead of telling parishioners that "the church" can't afford to keep St. Augustine open, or patronizingly quipping that there are other more authentic Black Catholic churches?

Hughes said "St. Joan of Arc and Corpus Christi parishes, formed about 50 years later, were the first New Orleans parishes founded for black Catholics and are more accurately seen as cradles for black Catholicism."

"Founded for" is not the same as "founded by."

Parishioners of St. Augustine don't want to move to another parish. They feel strongly about their own parish. St. Augustine isn't "property" for the church to dispose of as it likes. It was founded by free blacks 160 years ago. It belongs to the community, not "the church."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Time for Hughes and Maestri to step down

Scanning through the first few paragraphs this morning, I didn't see this shocking detail until later:

Maestri said he asked 10 police officers in plain clothes -- many of them members of St. Peter Claver -- to attend Mass on Sunday in order to "make sure we had taken precautions in case things got out of hand." ...

[Parishioner Sandra Gordon] said, "one of them got up during the Mass and pulled his jacket back and I told my husband, 'Oh my God. He's got a gun.'"

Are they out of their freakin' minds? The Catholic Church recruiting armed guards to deliver a mass? What did they think was going to happen? How ridiculous!

I'd say Archbishop Hughes and the archdiocese's spokesperson ubercommandant, Walter Maestri, are a little out of touch lately (okay, not just lately).

Maybe if they had an actual dialog, instead of forcing an eviction, they wouldn't worry for their safety ... Maybe if they had a little more compassion ... Maybe if they acted a little more ... ah ... Christian?

Can we have the National Guard back?

Again I ask, can we have the National Guard back?

The shotgun blast that killed 28-year-old Michael Frey in the Marigny neighborhood just before dawn on March 18 did more than just erase a young man’s life. It unnerved some residents in a neighborhood that in recent months had grown used to peaceful times.

Oh ... by the way, just a reminder for those of us who can't remember anything at all pre-Katrina, Nagin didn't have anything to say about the rising crime rate back then either.

Time to polish your resume Ray Ray

Did y'all see the Sunday Stephanie Grace column? She gave a nice rundown of what the support is for the mayoral candidates based upon their campaign receipts. Among the conclusions:

  • Jimmy Reiss gave $5000 to Ron Forman's campaign, and Reiss' wife gave another $5000 to Forman. Reiss is the businessman who, in return for his support 2002, Nagin tapped to chair the Regional Transit Authority.

  • Boysie Bollinger gave $5000 each from nine of his companies to Forman's campaign, a total of $45,000.

  • Architect William Sizeler gave Mitch Landrieu's campaign $10,000 through himself, and through his firm.

  • Restaurant owner Ralph Brennan gave Landrieu $5000.

  • Louisiana Recovery Authority member Sean Reilly and his wife each gave Landrieu $5000. Reilly's father and brother each gave $5000 to Forman.

  • And now, here's the kicker ... Ray Nagin only took in one political contribution since Hurricane Katrina -- $500.
Nagin still has a huge campaign war chest valued at over $1 million, but he definitely is hittin' the crack pipe if he thinks he has any popular, meaningful support out there.

The Irish kinship with New Orleans

This post comes a little late, but since many are still observing the lenten season, and since St. Patrick's Day is a lenten holiday ... this morning, I was digging through the sheaf of printed articles I thought I spend a little bit more time reading, only to delay reading them until today. I revisited a post by Mark Folse of Wet Bank Guide, "If I Should Fall from Grace," which made me proud to share, in my Irish heritage, a common cultural affinity to Louisiana, even though I wasn't born here:

Most Louisianians would feel immediately at home in Ireland, as I did when I visited over a decade ago. The joie de vivre of music, food and drink are so like those of Louisiana, it's as if you discovered a new parish, a lost part of Acadiana. Fiona Ritchie, host of the Celtic music show Thistle & Shamrock, once endorsed my own personal view--the Acadians are the lost tribe of the Celtic race. After a day in Ireland, you would understand why.

That guy sure can write!!!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Charity begins at home

Thanks Nabil for visiting! This is effing incredible:

HOUSTON -- Former first lady Barbara Bush contributed money to a hurricane-relief fund on the condition that it be spent to buy educational software from her son Neil's company.

Read the whole comment Nabil left on PGR.

Meet your "IQ" candidates

Via oyster.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Katrina: Know your rights

"We've dealt with Katrina"

Have you? Really, Mr. President? Because I think there be a wee bit more to do before Katrina will be dealt with.

By now, it's a story which most people here are very familiar with, but monkey boy finally had something to say about it.

10,777 FEMA trailers are still sitting in a hay meadow in Bill Clinton's fabled town of Hope, Arkansas.

Hundreds of thousands of hurricane victims remain hopelessly evacuated from their homes, scattered throughout the United States -- six months after the storm -- and the best Bush can come up with is:

Obviously, there's some times when government bureaucracies haven't responded the way we wanted them to. And like citizens, I don't like that at all. I mean, I think, for example, of the trailers sitting down in Arkansas. Like many citizens, they're wondering why they're down there. How come we got 11,000? So I've asked Chertoff to find out, what are you going to do with them? The taxpayers aren't interested in 11,000 trailers just sitting there; do something with them.

And so I share that sense of frustration when a big government is unable to -- sends wrong signals to taxpayers. But our people are good, hardworking people.

E.J. Dionne writes in The Washington Post that Bush can't simultaneously be a critic of the government, and its leader.

Whether he likes it or not, it was his own administration that bought those trailers and left them to rot in a field in Arkansas while hundreds of thousands of people languish, hoping beyond Hope for the opportunity to return to their homes to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

Dionne asked:
Why did FEMA spend anywhere from $300 million to $430 million -- the numbers are in dispute -- to buy homes that didn't meet its own regulations? Alternatively, why can't it alter its regulations at least temporarily to use the homes where they are desperately needed?

Many of us are scratching our heads, like po' boy, wondering about why the decision was made in the first place to drop trailers in front of people's homes at $75,000 a unit, when most homeowners would have gladly taken that money instead to just rebuild their homes.

And by the way ... ahem ... monkey boy is still claiming, falsely, that $100 billion has been spent on the Hurricane Katrina disaster, seeming to wish that by rattling off a mysterious big number, he could put the disaster behind him.

The reality is that most of the money is federally-mandated spending -- it's what the government is supposed to do.

The reality is that the non-insurance allocation to date is $67 billion, the biggest chunk of which was spent on hurricane cleanup and paying flood insurance claims for failed federal levees (da po' boy has the breakdown of allocations).

The cleanup money was paid to mega corporations which skimmed billions from the contracting process, hiring subcontractors, who hired sub-subcontractors, who hired sub-sub-subcontractors, who hired illegal immigrants while The Department of Homeland Insecurity's ICE looked the other way.

At a forum on Wednesday examining the recovery of Kobe, Japan following the 1995 earthquake that killed 6,401 people in 10 seconds, one of the most decisive conclusions reached by researchers Haruo Hayashi and Shigeo Tatsuki was that massive allocations to a few contractors stifled long-term economic growth. 10 years after the disaster, Kobe still hasn't recovered economically.

Meanwhile, Michael posted a Bob Herbert opinion citing the shocking cost of Operation Enduring Clusterf*** (* for polimom):
Now comes a study by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, and a colleague, Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, that estimates the "true costs" of the war at more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion.

Not calculating out the costs in the way that Stiglitz and Bilmes did, but just taking into account the $250 billion spent so far in Iraq, the local cost of the war to Louisiana taxpayers is now up to $2.6 billion. For Baton Rouge, the amount is $123 million. For New Orleans, $234 million. Extend those costs to 2010 like the Stiglitz and Bilmes did, and the costs rise to approximately $10-20 billion for Louisiana.

Anyone have an idea how we could spend that money?

Still in favor of the way Bush is waging his "war against terrah?"

You might be if, like Dick Cheney, you demanded that your "downtime suite" have all televisions tuned to Fox News (2Millionth Web Log).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Merci America

You too will shed tears of joy when you "fall in love with Louisiana all over again."

(Try the Quicktime version of the movie -- I couldn't get the Windows Media Version to work. Thanks to Chris, World Class New Orleans).

Green defense

No surprise:

Levees with a buffer of wetlands had a much higher survival rate than those that stood naked against Katrina's assault.

So why doesn't the simian king get it?

Be sure to take a look at the accompanying map graphic by Dan Swenson showing how surge raced over the MRGO.

Whining conservatives

Generally light posts lately -- lots going on in Schroeder's world.

I can't help but post a link to a Toronto Star article referenced in Polimon Says about why whiny kids tend to be conservatives:

Insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial.

So ... Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity? It really isn't a stretch to imagine what they were like as kids, is it?

Knife fight with the Bush administration?

On the issue of coastal restoration, I think Mark over at Wet Bank Guide is saying "it's on."

The virtual St. Joseph's altar

St. Joseph's Day was this past Sunday, but the lenten season continues. So, how about a fava bean for good luck ...

(Hat tip: Once again, Mark at Wet Bank Guide, who reminds readers not to leave the altar without their bag).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ray Ray's hittin' the crack pipe again

The New York Times:

"If a Category 5 hits us, probably the city will be gone and the levees will still be standing. The work they're doing is just incredible," Nagin said of ongoing work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Okay, that's very funny Ray Ray. I know you're just exaggerating 'cuz you're a funny guy.

Okay ... so really, are you saying that those levees can withstand a Category 5 storm? So ... like ... we don't need Category 5 storm protection? Is that really what you're saying?

And I find it interesting that you're going off talking to the Associated Press about how you have a plan to evacuate the city. Wow! That's really funny, because I don't think anyone in New Orleans heard about that plan Ray Ray.

And what's that? You actually have a plan to do something logical, and you didn't have to bury it in committee for six months?!!!

Maybe you're finally coming around Ray Ray, but that won't change my vote for Mitch Landrieu.

Still no leads in Uptown hit-and-run homicide

Captain Hosli of the Second District couldn't provide any new information about the Toby Breaugh Uptown hit-and-run homicide investigation at last night's NONPACC meeting.

Hosli explained that his homicide detectives were absorbed into a re-centralized homicide bureau in NOPD headquarters.

The homicide bureau was de-centralized under Chief Pennington, placing homicide detectives under the command of district captains, and therefore, placing accountability for homicide investigations and clearances with district captains. There was also the added advantage of homicide detectives working more closely with patrol officers and other detectives. This led to relationships and dialog that produced leads about suspects and motives. Now, those relationships have been disconnected.

Nevertheless, Captain Hosli's explanation is lacking. The hit-and-run homicide was one of the most heinous crimes ever in the Uptown neighborhood -- and certainly the most heinous crime Uptown post-Katrina. I would think that Captain Hosli would be privileged to whatever information he desired with just a phone call.

Who is this enraged driver cruising the streets of New Orleans? Will he strike again?

For those unfamiliar with the case, or for those who need to be reminded, The Times-Picayune:

Toby and Melissa Beaugh had chosen to walk home after a night of Carnival revelry with friends, which included watching parades from a St. Charles Avenue balcony. And as the couple spent the walk home anticipating another long Saturday, instead, Toby Beaugh died of head trauma after what police and his widow called a deliberate hit-and-run by an unidentified motorist. ...

But as the couple crossed Jena Street at Magazine, a black truck abruptly turned right onto Jena, startling the couple, Beaugh said. They reacted to the close call with quizzical gestures, thinking it was a thoughtless driver, but she said they made no threat.

"No words were exchanged," she said. "We kept walking up toward home. I was a few steps ahead of him. He was joking that I was doing my 'exercise walk.' We were just hanging out, having a good time."

One block farther up Magazine, at Cadiz Street, the truck reappeared, having apparently circled the block. It stopped at the corner, and Toby Beaugh paused in front of it with his arms outstretched, facing the driver, his wife said.

"The truck stepped on it, gunned it," she said. "It was so horrific. There were Mardi Gras beads shattered all over Magazine Street."

Police said they had no suspects or motives Saturday, but they were looking for a white male who had been driving a black pickup with an extended cab. The truck resembled a Toyota Tacoma, they said.

"Mardi Gras was his favorite holiday, next to his birthday," Beaugh said late Saturday afternoon, having gone sleepless since she said she watched the pickup drive headlong into her husband.

“He just stepped on the gas and ran right over my husband, a 29-year-old man … We’ve been married for 10 months and he ended his life. He was a beautiful person. His life was taken away. It's sick and anybody who has any information … please contact the police, the NOPD homicide line,” pleaded Beaugh.

There is a $20,000 Crimestoppers reward for information leading to an arrest of the perpetrator (822-1111).

The vehicle used in the hit-and-run is described as "a black Toyota-type of vehicle with a rounded front and a chrome accent over both wheels."

Soldiers aren't supposed to be "soft and cuddly"

Associated Press:

An Army dog handler convicted of tormenting Iraqis at
Abu Ghraib prison with his snarling animal was unrepentant about the abuse charges at his sentencing hearing, telling a court-martial jury that soldiers aren't supposed to be "soft and cuddly."

Perhaps not, but they aren't supposed to decide for themselves what the foreign policy of the United States is, and like every other American, they're supposed to obey the law ... er, well, that is unless you're George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, or Condaleeza Rice.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Worried about crime in your neighborhood?

Concerned about slow NOPD response times?

Ask the Second District captain for answers.

7:00 P.M.

(2nd District NONPACC meetings are held in the same place every third Tuesday of the month).

Monday, March 20, 2006

Yes Ray Ray, but when?!!!

For Christ's sake Ray Ray, it's six months later!

Now that you've decided, after pondering for weeks the BNOB commission recommendations, what you want to do, do we really have to wait for an implementation committee?

Consider the issue of temporary housing for workers Ray Ray. Shit man! That should have been obvious to you six months ago. You don't need to put the matter to an implementation committee.


Yeah sure -- you say some crazy things and then you make us laugh about it later because you're so cool and self-deprecating. So go on the stand-up comedy circuit. We need a freakin' leader.

It's simple Ray Ray. Just listen to the people who you're supposed to represent. Don't leave people out of the rebuilding process.


It shouldn't have taken six months to get here, and it shouldn't take many more months just to figure out how to implement.

Are you still operating in pre-Katrina mode Ray Ray? Hey, the buses flooded. That was six months ago. It's time to rebuild the city!

James Hansen should get a medal

I'll have to come up with an alternative to the boneless chicken graphic for heroes like NASA scientist James Hansen who's willing to tell it like it is in spite of attempts by the Bush administration to cover up the truth.

CBS' 60 Minutes:

Hansen says his research shows that man has just 10 years to reduce greenhouse gases before global warming reaches what he calls a tipping point and becomes unstoppable. He says the White House is blocking that message.

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

More on the Bush administration science whitewash was posted earlier in PGR, including Phil Cooney's liberal use of whiteout and a thesaurus to cleanse the truth out of scientific research before the heat inside the White House got to him, and he quit to work for Exxon Mobil.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is still in denial. The Saturday Times-Picayune reported:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson said Friday that the Bush administration is committed to rebuilding Louisiana's shattered coastline, but offered no new money for an effort expected to cost up to $14 billion.

Nor did he offer any specifics as to what role his agency would play.

"President Bush and EPA are determined to rebuild and rejuvenate our nation's wetlands," Johnson said in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Wildlife Federation in New Orleans. "After Katrina and Rita, the entire world knows how important wetlands are to our lives and our communities .... Coastal security and sustainability are about more than levees and concrete." ...

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost an estimated 1,900 square miles of coastal wetlands to erosion. Despite passage of the Breaux Act by Congress in 1990 in an attempt to stop the losses, land has continued to disappear at the rate of about 24 square miles annually over the past decade.

"Hey, thanks for the oil suckers!"

"Too bad you friggin' coonasses and cajuns don't have any friggin' coastline left! Too late now!"

I just wonder where are all the Louisiana assholes who voted for Bush. Louisiana could have been a swing state.

(Hat tip: Maureen, for the EPA article).

Cowen at Newcomb commencement

President Scott Cowen congratulates a Newcomb College graduate during Tulane's Unified Commencement Ceremony.

"Congratulations! You made it through before I close Newcomb forever! Muuu-ah-ha-ha-ha-haaa!!!"

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Six months later, not ONE house rebuilt

USA Today:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Saturday his city has made progress in rebuilding since Hurricane Katrina.


I'm hearing that the rebuilding process is well under way in Mississippi. Where's the fucking plan Ray-Ray?

Meanwhile, what?!! Is the Senate really considering holding back until June the $4.2 billion housing aid package for New Orleans?

The Times-Picayune:
Clergy from more than 100 cities called on Washington lawmakers to end their squabbling over $4.2 billion in federal money earmarked to rebuild hurricane-damaged housing in Louisiana, and to direct more money to evacuated residents trying to return to the New Orleans area. ...

"Not a penny of federal aid has reached families to help them rebuild, said Rev. Heyward Wiggins III, pastor of Camden (N.J.) Bible Tabernacle.

Pathetic! Absolutely freakin' pathetic!

One in 10 Americans know someone killed or wounded in Iraq

USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll:

  • Six in 10 Americans say that the impact of the Iraq War has been negative.

  • Six in 10 say a close friend, family member or co-worker has served in Iraq.

  • One in 10 say someone close to them has been killed or wounded there.

  • Fifty percent now say the war was not morally justified (in March 2003, 3-to-1, Americans said the war was justified).

  • Sixty percent say the war is going badly (in March 2003, 85% said the war was going well).

Cuba to play for World Baseball Classic title

After defeating the Dominican Republic 3-1, Cuba will play the winner of the matchup between Japan and South Korea in the World Baseball Classic championship.

USA Today


HAVANA (AP) — The wives and mothers of about two dozen political prisoners marched Saturday along several of the city's main avenues, singing hymns and carrying signs reading "amnesty" to commemorate the third anniversary of the crackdown that put their husbands behind bars.

Authorities did not interfere with the march by the "Ladies in White," as the women have become known for their frequent marches to draw attention to their husbands' plight. Dressed all in white as is their tradition, the women carried gladiolas as they walked along Havana's thoroughfares.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Can we have the National Guard back?

Someone was telling me the other day that he reported gunshots right next door, but the police never showed up to investigate. He lives Uptown.

The NOPD keeps saying crime numbers are down, but are they? Relative to what? The population is down as well. How do crime numbers compare to other populations of this size? What about those contractors? They're quite a grisly, surly lot some of them.

Meanwhile, ICE is rounding up hispanics waiting around for work in Lee Circle, looking for criminals among them (good), but handling deportation on a "case-by-case" basis. Well that's nice, but aren't they just supposed to follow the law, not interpret it? What's up with that?

What about the hit-and-run that occurred just before Mardi Gras? A man and his wife lived just a few blocks away from Magazine and Cadiz. A guy in what was described as a Large Toyota pickup truck with extra chrome trim went around the block -- went out of his way -- circling to come back around and run the man over. He was dragged and killed at the scene in front of his wife.

Public hanging anyone? How about a firing squad?

I'd guess the guy was a contractor.

So, can we have the National Guard back?

Given the weird, changing dynamics of the city, I'd say we need all the help we can get. I don't care what the NOPD is saying to save face!

Suit seeks to save Newcomb

The Los Angeles Times

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, seeks an injunction blocking Tulane from closing its 120-year-old H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, one of the nation's first degree-granting colleges for women. The suit also seeks to bar the university from tinkering with Newcomb's endowment, which has been estimated at $40 million and is separate from Tulane's $745-million endowment.

Veterans march to New Orleans

Veterans March to New Orleans:

Veterans For Peace (VFP), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), and Gold Star Families for Peace (GSFP), at the call of the Mobile Veterans For Peace Chapter #130, will conduct a march between Mobile, AL, and New Orleans, LA, from March 14-19, 2006 -- the third anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

This historical event highlights the connections between the economic and human cost of war in the Middle East and the failure of our government to respond to human needs at home, especially the needs of poor people and people of color.

The government's negligent and often hostile response to hurricane survivors is mirrored by that same government's continued commitment to an illegal, immoral war fought at a staggering cost.

These are twin disasters, and the veterans of wars abroad along with the survivors of Katrina and Rita are joining together for this march and caravan to establish ties of material solidarity between those who oppose the war abroad and the social and economic costs for working people at home.

Looks like they'll be in Slidell and Chalmette Friday and Saturday, arriving at St. Augustine Church at about 4:00 p.m. Saturday, when Cindy Sheehan will make some remarks.

The rally is Sunday, with a march from St. Augustine Church to Armstrong Park starting at 9:00 a.m.

(Thanks for sending the link Maureen).

Dog park

Did anyone go to the League of Women Voters mayoral candidates forum at Temple Sinai Thursday night? Twenty-three candidates in about two hours, about twenty of whom shouldn't have even been given a stage. Anytime Kimberly Williamson-Butler spoke, the audience roared with laughter. No one else of any consequence said anything of any importance ... experience, reach across the aisle, show results, blah blah blah. Ray Nagin hawked his experience with hurricanes and cautioned that you don't want a rookie in charge when the next one comes. Wow! "I might suck, but not as bad as the new guy" is not exactly what we need right now.

Outside the temple, council district campaigners and every other sort of snake-oil salesperson were selling their salves to save the city or protest one thing or another. Media everywhere. What a zoo! And then, adding to the bizarre nature of the evening, a huge tour bus got stuck across St. Charles Avenue somehow while exiting the Loyola. Hundreds of cars backed up as people tried to escape. It was entertaining, sure, and this is a democracy, yeah, but can all those people really be serious?

Lately (actually, for quite a long time now), I've been feeling that a lot of pretty uncanny things have been happening, and so it occurred to me the other day that I feel like I'm living in a magic reality.

So, since I don't really have the energy to post anything more meaningful, here's a slice of that magic reality -- or whatever you want to call it. These are photos I took one breezy afternoon last weekend in that little dog park area on the river side of the levee where dogs go swimming and gleefully retrieve sticks their owners throw.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Happy St. Joseph's Day, Happy St. Joseph's Night, Happy Marathoning!

Oh ... and here's one more. This was taken by Chris Granger for The Times-Picayune -- a St. Joseph's altar under a blue-roofed house in Chalmette, St. Bernard Parish.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

International Women's Day podcasts


Et tu, Brute?

On this, the Ides of March, let's hope that the bill to consolidate the Orleans assessors into one office, written by Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, isn't killed in session -- especially since Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin threw out (on ridiculous grounds) the "I.Q." (I quit) nickname for people running to get rid of the multiple assessors offices. Judge Griffin cited "a state law that allows nicknames to be listed on the ballot except when they “designate a title, designation or deceptive name” or “an occupation or professional description or abbreviation.”

Hmm ... is there anything deceptive going on if everyone knows that "I.Q." stands for an end to patronage in the assessors' offices?

Oh man -- and I just noticed that not only is it the Ides of March, but there's a full moon. Whew -- might be a good day for the superstitious to stay indoors!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Upcoming Katrina events

3/15/06 update: I sorted events by date and added one more (the BNOB meeting).

The Loyola University Society for Civic Engagement is hosting a panel discussion, "Rethinking New Orleans: What is the Role of Planned Urban Development in the Reconstruction of the City?," Wednesday, March 15, 7 p.m., Nunemaker Auditorium on the third floor of Monroe Hall, Loyola University.

"An Earth Science Perspective on Katrina," 3/15/2006, Wednesday, 7:00 p.m., Gibson 126 A, Torbjorn Tornqvist, Earth & Environmental Sciences Department, Tulane University.

The League of Women Voters is hosting a forum for all mayoral candidates, this coming Thursday, 3/16, 7 p.m at Temple Sinai, 6227 St. Charles Ave.

The Renewal Series presents Award-winning writers Richard Ford and John Biguenet “Literary Landscapes: A discussion of New Orleans before and after Katrina”, Thursday, March 16, 2006, 7-9:00 pm, Loyola's Roussel Hall.

The Bring New Orleans Back Commission will hold its final public meeting on Monday, March 20, 2006, from 6-8 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel, Grand Ballroom A & B, 500 Canal Street.

"Poverty, Disaster, and Sustainability: How Do We Move Forward?," a lecture by Peter Raven, Ph.D., Thursday, March 23, 2006, at 7 p.m. in Loyola's Nunemaker Auditorium.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Garbage pickup

Following a spate of blistering criticism in The Times-Picayune and other press organizations, and letters saying the city should go back to the Corps of Engineers' garbage pickup, Waste Management is finally getting the message.

One resident I was talking to yesterday on State Street above Fontainebleu said that the garbage truck passing down the street was the first he'd seen in weeks. Within the space of a couple more hours, two more trucks moved down his street looking for garbage. And that was a Sunday.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Let the river go

Bob Marshall, a Times-Picayune environmental reporter, was calling for radical coastal restoration in a Friday opinion, "The river wild":

Five years ago, after 25 years of chronicling the loss of our coastal wetlands, I stopped believing a cure was on the way. I became a realist. ...

So when readers and media colleagues continued to hammer me with the question "When will people wake up to what's happening?" my standard reply became this: "When a hurricane puts five feet of water on Canal Street."

Sadly, Katrina proved me wrong. We still live in a state of denial.

I say that because six months after Katrina wrecked our city and killed more than 1,100 of our neighbors, the nation and state still don't get it. Our leaders talk incessantly about levees (bigger, stronger, longer, costlier), and occasionally about wetlands. The implication is that if we build higher mud walls, then add the collection of coastal restoration projects the state has been pushing for 20 years, we can survive here.

That might have been true 20 years ago, but it isn't today. The loss of coastal wetlands is too severe.

What many coastal scientists know, but are afraid to say publicly, is that we are almost out of options. The Gulf has moved so much closer to our back doors that there now remains only one real hope for a long-term future on the delta of the Mississippi River: Let the river go.

The federal government must claim eminent domain on everything south of U.S. 90, then begin managing it as an ecosystem with one priority: Rebuilding land faster than it's being lost to the Gulf.

This can only be done by opening large sections of the levees. River-borne sediments could then begin reconstructing the 1,900 square miles of wetlands that provided us some safety from the Gulf and its storms.

Read on ...

Happy Katrina Mardi Gras decorations

I promised more, and here they are -- my photos of post-Katrina Mardi Gras decorations. There are a few other odd photos thrown in where I thought something interesting was happening.

Snapfish (sorry -- it looks like this requires registration. I'm not happy with Yahoo Photos or -- anyone have other suggestions? The main things I don't like about Yahoo and Flikr are that their applications are buggy -- I can't rearrange photos in Yahoo, and Flikr just hangs without any sort of feedback when it's uploading photos).

Friday, March 10, 2006

Disaster, carnival, and revolution

A long post here as I put some things out there that I've been holding on to for a while.

Bruce Nolan, celebrating the locals' glory at the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras:

God, what a great, conflicted place. It has long been punishing to live here, to see the kids go elsewhere to make a life, to feel the economy deflate year by year, to see the schools free-fall into chaos and worst of all, to hear the tales of so many heroic, destitute neighbors violated by looters again and again.

How can such a place hold its people? Tuesday shows you why. ...

Since Katrina, things have been both incomparably worse and incomparably better. At the same time. I can't fully explain it; but I see it.

A friend who used to work at The Times-Picayune wrote me after Katrina. Her heart was breaking for the city. She said she loved New Orleans, but it made her crazy. She moved on. She said, "New Orleans is the man I'll never get over. But Chicago is the man I'm supposed to marry."

Those of us who subscribe to Harper's Magazine might never have seen this article, which was printed after we were scattered to the hinterlands. Rebecca Solnit's article, "The Uses of Disaster," was headed for print in Harper's Magazine when Hurricane Katrina struck. Here are excerpts, drawn from the print version someone gave to me, and from the online version:

Shortly after midnight on September 29, 2003, Hurricane Juan made landfall near Halifax, Nova Scotia. ... A professor glowed with with happy recollection. "Everybody woke up the next morning and everything was different," he mused. "There was no electricity, all the stores were closed, no one had access to the media. The consequence was that everyone poured out into the street to bear witness. Not quite a street party, but everyone out at once" -- clearing debris, rebuilding homes, sharing food, comparing notes, and in these acts generating an improbably feeling of joy -- "a sense of happiness to see everybody, even though we didn't know each other." ...

Such pleasure in the face of suffering and loss is not unusual. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906, for instance ... generated similar epiphanies. ...

San Francisco newspaperwoman Pauline Jacobson found the suspension of ordinary life positively festive. ...

Most of us since then have run the whole gamut of human emotions from glad to sad and back again, but underneath is all a new note is struck, a quiet bubbling joy is felt. It is that note that makes all our loss worth the while. It is the note of a millenial good fellowship. ...

Around the periphery of many disasters is a far larger population of people who are unhurt but deeply disrupted. Often enough, many of those people find the disruption deeply satisfying as well as unnerving. They enjoy the disruption not only of the barriers that normally separate them from their neighbors but also of their own grinding self-absorption. ...

In disaster, the impact is shared, the solidarity may eclipse the suffering, and thus rather than adding to the isolation of individual misfortune such events may undo the loneliness of everyday life. ...

In his 1961 study, “Disasters and Mental Health: Therapeutic Principles Drawn from Disaster Studies,” sociologist Charles Fritz asks an interesting question: “Why do large-scale disasters produce such mentally healthy conditions?” One of the answers is that a disaster shakes us loose of ordinary time. “In everyday life many human problems stem from people's preoccupation with the past and the future, rather than the present,” Fritz wrote. “Disasters provide a temporary liberation from the worries, inhibitions, and anxieties associated with the past and the future because they force people to concentrate their full attention on immediate moment-to-moment, day-to-day needs.” This shift in awareness, he added, “speeds the process of decision-making” and “facilitates the acceptance of change.”

The state of mind Fritz describes resembles those sought in various spiritual traditions. It recalls Buddhism's emphasis on being in the moment, nonattachment, and compassion for all beings, and the Christian monastic tradition's emphasis on awareness of mortality and ephemerality. ...

What stands out in these disaster narratives is what Jacobson called "joy in the other fellow." Again and again, we see a latent civil society -- a community -- arising from the ruins of some disaster and becoming the grounds for connection and joy. ...

Many official disaster-preparedness scenarios nonetheless presume that human beings are prone to panic and in need of policing. A sort of Hobbesian true human nature emerges, according to this version, and people trample one another to flee, or loot and pillage, or they haplessly await rescue. In the movie version, this is the necessary precondition for John Wayne, Harrison Ford, or one of their shovel-jawed brethren to save the day and focus the narrative. In the government version, this is why we need the government. In 1906, for example, no one quite declared martial law, but soldiers, policemen, and some armed college students patrolled the streets of San Francisco looking for looters, with orders to shoot on sight. Even taking food from buildings about to burn down was treated as a crime: property and order were prized above survival or even reason. But “the authorities” are too few and too centralized to respond to the dispersed and numerous emergencies of a disaster. Instead, the people classified as victims generally do what can be done to save themselves and one another. In doing so, they discover not only the potential power of civil society but also the fragility of existing structures of authority. And perhaps this, too, is grounds for joy.

The events of September 11, 2001, though entirely unnatural, shed light on the nature of all disasters. That day saw the near-total failure of centralized authority. The United States has the largest and most technologically advanced military in the world, but the only successful effort to stop the commandeered planes from becoming bombs was staged by the unarmed passengers inside United Airlines Flight 93. ...

The police and fire departments responded valiantly to the bombings of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, but most of the people there who survived did so because they rescued themselves and one another. ...

The days after 9/11 constituted a tremendous national opening, as if a door had been unlocked. The aftermath of disaster is often peculiarly hopeful, and in the rupture of the ordinary, real change often emerges. But this means that disaster threatens not only bodies, buildings, and property but also the status quo. Disaster recovery is not just a rescue of the needy but also a scramble for power and legitimacy, one that the status quo usually-but not always-wins. The Bush Administration's response after 9/11 was a desperate and extreme version of this race to extinguish too vital a civil society and reestablish the authority that claims it alone can do what civil society has just done-and, alas, an extremely successful one. For the administration, the crisis wasn't primarily one of death and destruction but one of power. The door had been opened and an anxious administration hastened to slam it shut.

You can see the grounds for that anxiety in the aftermath of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which was the beginning of the end for the one-party rule of the PRI over Mexico. ...

The initial response made it clear that the government cared a lot more about the material city of buildings and wealth than the social city of human beings. ...

As in San Francisco in 1906, in the ruins of the city of architecture and property, another city came into being made of nothing more than the people and their senses of solidarity and possibility. Citizens began to demand justice, accountability, and respect. They fought to keep the sites of their rent-controlled homes from being redeveloped as more lucrative projects. They organized neighborhood groups. And eventually they elected a left-wing mayor-a key step in breaking the PRI's monopoly on power in Mexico.

The poor of Mexico City seized the opportunity presented by the disaster, and seized it festively. One neighborhood not only organized itself politically but, according to one report, underwent a sevenfold increase in street parties.

Carnival, to paraphrase William James, is the moral equivalent of disaster. No one dies, but carnival begets the same sense of release from the conventions and categories that bind and isolate us. There is spectacle, noise, chaos. ...

Mikhail Bakhtin's famous definition of carnival fits disaster as well:
Carnival celebrated temporary liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established order; it marked the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms, and prohibitions. Carnival was the true feast of time, the feast of becoming, change, and renewal. It was hostile to all that was immortalized and completed. ... People were, so to speak, reborn for purely human relations. ...

Carnival punctuates routine, relieves the ongoing low-grade crises of isolation, indifference, and obliviousness; it mixes things up and connects them back together. ...

Carnival's message that anything can happen is not so different from revolution's exhortation that everything is possible. And the outbreak of revolution or insurrection begets a similar moment when the very air you breathe seems to pour out of a luminous future, when people all around you are brothers and sisters, when you feel extraordinary strength. ...

Americans work more hours now than anyone else in the industrialized world. They also work far more than they themselves did as recently as a few decades ago. This shift is economic—call it Reaganomics or Chicago-style “liberalism” or “globalization”—but it is cultural too, part of an odd backlash against unions, social safety nets, the New Deal and the Great Society, against the idea that we should take care of one another, against the idea of community. The proponents of this shift celebrate the frontier ideals of “independence” and the Protestant work ethic and the Horatio Alger notion that it's all up to you.

In this light, we can regard the notion of “privatization” as a social phenomenon far broader than a process by which government contracts are granted. It is the spiritual privatization of Protestantism -- which did away with Catholicism's festival-heavy calendar, its emphasis on community and communion -- as well as the privatization of civic life in general. Moments of carnival, community, and political participation are, from the perspective of privatizers, not just wasted time but -- pace the seventeeth-century Puritans punishing those who celebrated Christmas -- violations of belief.

Our recent history is the history of privatization. Marketing and media shove imagination more and more toward private life and private satisfaction. Citizens are redefined as consumers. Public participation in electoral politics falters, and with it any sense of collective or individual political power. Public space itself—the site for the First Amendment's “right of the people peaceably to assemble”—withers away. Free association is aptly termed, for there is no profit in it. And since there is no profit in it, we are instead encouraged by our great media and advertising id to fear one another and regard public life as a danger and a nuisance, to live in secured spaces, communicate by electronic means, and acquire our information from that self-same media rather than from one another. The barkers touting our disastrous “ownership society” refuse to acknowledge that it is what we own in common that makes us strong. But disaster makes it clear that our interdependence is not only an inescapable fact but a fact worth celebrating—that the production of civil society is a work of love, indeed the work that many of us desire most.

And this is Solnit's postscript written after Hurricane Katrina, which is only available in the online version of the article:
At stake in stories of disaster is what version of human nature we will accept, and at stake in that choice is how will we govern, and how we will cope with future disasters. By now, more than a week after New Orleans has been destroyed, we have heard the stories of poor, mostly black people who were “out of control.” We were told of “riots” and babies being murdered, of instances of cannibalism. And we were provided an image of authority, of control—of power as a necessary counter not to threats to human life but to unauthorized shopping, as though free TVs were the core of the crisis. “This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brigadier General Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard's Joint Task Force told the Army Times. “We're going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

New Orleans, of course, has long been a violent place. Its homicide rate is among the highest in the nation. The Associated Press reports that last year “university researchers conducted an experiment in which police fired 700 blank rounds in a New Orleans neighborhood in a single afternoon. No one called to report the gunfire.” That is a real disaster. As I write this, however, it is becoming clear that many of the stories of post-disaster Hobbesian carnage were little more than rumor. “I live in the N.O. area and got back into my house on Saturday,” one resident wrote to Harry Shearer's website. “We know that the looting was blown out of proportion and that much of it was just people getting food and water, or batteries and other emergency supplies. That is not to say that some actual looting did not go on. There was, indeed, some of that. But it was pretty isolated. As was the shooting and other violence in the streets.”

As the water subsides and the truth filters out, we may be left with another version of human nature. I have heard innumerable stories of rescue, aid, and care by doctors, neighbors, strangers, and volunteers who arrived on their own boats, and in helicopters, buses, and trucks—stories substantiated by real names and real faces. So far, citizens across the country have offered at least 200,000 beds in their homes to refugees from Katrina's chaos on, and unprecedented amounts have been donated to the Red Cross and other charities for hurricane victims. The greatest looter in this crisis may be twenty-year-old Jabbar Gibson, who appropriated a school bus and evacuated about seventy of his New Orleans neighbors to Houston.

Disasters are almost by definition about the failure of authority, in part because the powers that be are supposed to protect us from them, in part also because the thousand dispersed needs of a disaster overwhelm even the best governments, and because the government version of governing often arrives at the point of a gun. But the authorities don't usually fail so spectacularly. Failure at this level requires sustained effort. The deepening of the divide between the haves and have nots, the stripping away of social services, the defunding of the infrastructure, mean that this disaster—not of weather but of policy—has been more or less what was intended to happen, if not so starkly in plain sight.

The most hellish image in New Orleans was not the battering waves of Lake Pontchartrain or even the homeless children wandering on raised highways. It was the forgotten thousands crammed into the fetid depths of the Superdome. And what most news outlets failed to report was that those infernos were not designed by the people within, nor did they represent the spontaneous eruption of nature red in tooth and claw. They were created by the authorities. The people within were not allowed to leave. The Convention Center and the Superdome became open prisons. “They won't let them walk out,” reported Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, in a radical departure from the script. “They got locked in there. And anyone who walks up out of that city now is turned around. You are not allowed to go to Gretna, Louisiana, from New Orleans, Louisiana. Over there, there's hope. Over there, there's electricity. Over there, there is food and water. But you cannot go from here to there. The government will not allow you to do it. It's a fact.” Jesse Jackson compared the Superdome to the hull of a slave ship. People were turned back at the Gretna bridge by armed authorities, men who fired warning shots over the growing crowd. Men in control. Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw, paramedics in New Orleans for a conference, wrote in an email report (now posted at CounterPunch) that they saw hundreds of stranded tourists thus turned back. “All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot.” That was not anarchy, nor was it civil society.

This is the disaster our society has been working to realize for a quarter century, ever since Ronald Reagan rode into town on promises of massive tax cuts. Many of the stories we hear about sudden natural disasters are about the brutally selfish human nature of the survivors, predicated on the notion that survival is, like the marketplace, a matter of competition, not cooperation. Cooperation flourishes anyway. (Slonsky and Bradshaw were part of a large group that had set up a civilized, independent camp.) And when we look back at Katrina, we may see that the greatest savagery was that of our public officials, who not only failed to provide the infrastructure, social services, and opportunities that would have significantly decreased the vulnerability of pre-hurricane New Orleans but who also, when disaster did occur, put their ideology before their people.

Rebecca Solnit
September 8, 2005

Finally, if you haven't already, please do visit Mark over at Wet Bank Guide. He's a splendid writer, and he just moved back to New Orleans after a long hiatus -- just in time to celebrate Mardi Gras:
We are coming back to the city to stay, to march again and again, so that there is no longer a Last Mardi Gras, just the last Mardi Gras. I will march until my time is done, and then I will borrow a ritual from St. Anne's, in this city of borrowed rituals. I will have my children scatter what remains of me into the river. For me, it will be the Last Mardi Gras. For them, it will simply be a moment from last Mardi Gras. They will say a few words, shed a tear, and then all of us will be swept away by the currents. They will turn away from the river, while nearby a drunken trumpeter will perhaps blow a few bars of Oh Didn't He Ramble, and I will march in their hearts back into the Quarter once more.

May carnival continue, and may the revolution begin.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bush passes on the red beans

Congratulations Mr. Bush! I truly salute you for finally getting away from Jackson Square and St. Charles Avenue to see one of the most devastated areas of New Orleans. Trouble is, you're six months too late, and you still haven't said what New Orleanians need to hear right now.

We just came from a neighborhood where people are fixing to -- are in the process of cleaning up debris. We went there because the Mayor and the Governor thought it was important for me to see firsthand the devastation of the storm in certain neighborhoods and the progress that is being made for cleaning up the debris.

Someone needed to tell you this? You couldn't figure it out on your own?

"Oh yeah, I can still strut my stuff!"

"Sometimes being the president makes me feel like such a badass, I think I should pinch myself to make me wake up."

"Thanks for the red beans. I can't eat these just in case they're poisoned. If they're not, then you're the sucker for thinking I'll ever give you Cat 5 storm protection or restored coasts."

Laura's brilliant revelation
for the day:
Outside, Laura Bush peppered Gil Jamieson FEMA’s deputy director of Gulf Coast recovery, with questions. “Is this debris out of one house?” she asked, pointing to the pile. “It was just put out on the street? What about the homeowners who are gone?”

Uh ... Laura? They're gone. That's what happens when twelve feet of water sits in your house for weeks. If the residents weren't killed in the flooding, they've been forced to live somewhere else for the last six months while your jackass of a husband hopes they all disappear from the face of the earth.

Let's see, what did monkey boy have to say this time:
"We fully understand that if the people don't have confidence in the levee system, they're not going to want to come back," Bush said. "People aren't going to want to spend money or invest."

So, what's your problem with Cat 5 storm protection? Coastal restoration?

While monkey boy is shortchanging New Orleans of a commitment to its second and third most critical priorities (after housing), blaming Congress for his own failure to lead, he claims credit for the trickle of aid to help some people rebuild their homes, while others are left entirely out of the process.

The truth is that the $1.5 billion Bush is quibbling with Congress about to restore the levees to the same sorry state they were in before is nowhere near the roughly $30 billion needed to get Category 5 storm protection.

The truth is that $4.2 billion is nowhere near what's needed to afford ALL HOMEOWNERS, and ALL LANDLORDS, and ALL TENANTS, to FULL COMPENSATION for damages caused by federal criminal negligence.

The truth is that what New Orleans needs is a drop in the bucket compared to the waste of lives and treasure in Iraq. I haven't marked the fact in a post yet, but over the past few days, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq surpassed the 2300 mark, and the number injured surpassed 17,000. Meanwhile, the U.S. has spent over $245 billion in Iraq.

Osama? Anyone?

The truth is that what "the good folks in this part of the world" need is the strongest statement possible by President Bush that:

1) The federal government will make sure every individual harmed by the failure of the federal levee system will be made whole. We don't need a trickle of a few billion dollars here, and a few billion there. We need the same tone of voice used by the Bush administration that it used when it lied to get us mired in a civil war in Iraq.

2) The thought of losing New Orleans is unfathomable. As such, the federal government will ensure that New Orleans never, ever, floods again, by creating a mission to the moon type project to protect the city from the worst storm imaginable with a state of the art storm protection system and massive coastal restoration.

What we don't need are speeches and press conferences and lies and a trickle of money that amounts to less than what is required.

In short, what we need is leadership -- in the White House.

I think the guy who got the blow job would have figured this out a long time ago.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

First mayoral debate live Tuesday night

The Times-Picayune:

The first New Orleans mayoral debate will be aired live from Loyola University on Tuesday night at 7 p.m., hosted by ABC26 TV and simulcast on Video of the complete debate will also be available after midnight on

Viewers are invited to submit questions before the debate for consideration.

Mail your questions to

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mitch has a Web site

High Water

Postcard found in a flood debris pile west of the London Avenue Canal breach.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Happy Katrina Mardi Gras video

3.9 MB

3/05/06 update: If the video doesn't download right away, or if you get a "page not available" error, try reloading the page, or right-clicking and saving the file to your hard drive to view. I'm serving the video out of a quirky Yahoo Geocities account.

3/07/06 update: Thanks Rob -- here's an alternate download location at

Friday, March 03, 2006

Si tu savais le don de Dieu

Since it's been decided that the historic 1841 St. Augustine Church in the Treme will be closed, I thought I heard somewhere that Charmaine Neville would be performing there Sunday at 11:00 AM 10:00 AM.

Can anyone confirm this? I have confirmed this (see update below).

St. Augustine Church was "the only parish in the United States whose free people of color bought two outer rows of pews exclusively for slaves to use for worship," according to the Clarion Herald.

The LA Times noted that the church needs $1 million in repairs, and greater attendance -- or at least more weddings and other ceremonies.

I'd think all sorts of people would flock to the church for weddings if it were promoted more as a crucible of spirituals, blues, and jazz.

It's a lack of creative vision that has Archbishop Hughes and Walter Maestri stubbornly holding fast to a decision rather than work with the community to find a solution. Bruce Nolan in The Times-Picayune:

Sandra Gordon, a retired school system employee who serves on St. Augustine's parish council, said its members have been meeting every other week and had drawn up a plan to revitalize the parish. They hoped to start programs in computer training and nutrition, a historical archive and a jazz apprenticeship, Gordon said.

She said the church's congregation had grown since Katrina. "With new people and help from donors, I believe we could make it," she said.

Gordon said LeDoux told them they had until about mid-summer to finish their work. They were going to submit their proposal Friday, when the archdiocese shocked them with its announcement.

But Maestri said Monday the plan was always scheduled to be finished in January or February. ...

Maestri said that despite the church's heritage, in recent years the vitality had drained away from St. Augustine. Fewer marriages and funerals were occurring there, and less education of children and adults in the Catholic faith.

A Bruce Nolan Times-Picayune article features the translation for the french title to this post. It's a gold-leaf inscription over the marble altar: "If you knew the gift of God."

Here's the St. Augustine Web site.

3/03/2006 update: I called St. Augustine this afternoon and learned that the Charmaine Neville performance will be this Sunday at 10:00 AM. I was also told that St. Augustine parishioners are appealing and continue to negotiate for a solution with the diocese that will allow the church to remain open. There is also a petition circulating to keep the church open, and a membership drive to ensure it has the numbers it needs to survive in the future.

"Be afraid. Be very afraid."

I've never seen this one:

Photo credit: Mario Tama, Getty Images

The photo accompanies a Eugene Robinson opinion in The Washington Post:

The leaked videotapes and transcripts of pre-Katrina briefings that were obtained this week by the Associated Press leave in tatters the defining myth of the Bush administration -- an undeserved aura of cool, unflinching competence and steely resolve. Instead, the tapes show bureaucratic inertia and a president for whom delegation seems to mean detachment.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Katrina golf open

There's too much going on right now and I just don't have the emotional energy to respond coherently to the video which proves beyond doubt the total failure of a president we have in George W. Bush.

I'll just post this photo of a bumper sticker I saw this morning and leave that as at least one New Orleanian's response to the Bush presidency.

Mixter and Steve first brought the story to my attention.

I'll note that the AP reporter has an error in the report, citing the date of the meeting as Sunday, August 29th -- but Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on Monday, August 29th.

Dan Froomkin repeated an Evan Thomas article in Newsweek last September:

White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast

People were climbing out of the rushing water and trying to survive on their rooftops as Bush golfed. Think Progress has Bush's vacation itinerary, and features a comment by a reader who noted that while Bush vacationed, television footage showed "a man crying because he couldn’t hold his wife in the current." I've commented in PGR extensively on Bush's record-breaking vacation agenda.

Source Watch has a well-written, multi-sourced feature documenting the Bush administration response, with an incredibly shocking revelation of George's incompetence:
Bush didn't ask any questions during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29.

Shit jack! I mean, wouldn't anyone want to know how evacuations were proceeding, what preparations there were to rescue people if the city flooded, was there enough food and water for emergency personnel, could the military be of any use -- but no, nothing! has links to a bunch of videos:
• Bush gets storm warning
• Top weatherman on storm strength
• Bush speaking with former FEMA chief Michael Brown
• Brown hears from state officials
• New Orleanians react
• Video shows Bush got storm warning

ABC's Elizabeth Vargas interview with Bush shows a smirking, squirming Bush, and one of the most vacuous minds I've ever observed (transcript, video).
VARGAS: Your desk is so clean Mr. President.

BUSH: Yeah, well, you know that is what happens when you have desk cleaners everywhere.

VARGAS: Do you spend a lot of time here?

BUSH: I do. This is where my main office. I've got an office here obviously, and I've got one upstairs in the White House on the second floor, right down from our bedroom. It's called the treaty room. I like to work here 'cause I like how open it feels.

VARGAS: It is ... very.

It's not the first time that Bush was late to react (Froomkin quoting the 9/11 commission report):
The President was seated in a classroom of second graders when, at approximately 9:05, Andrew Card whispered to him: 'A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.' The President told us his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis."

But even after he left the classroom, he didn't call the Pentagon. He didn't ask if there were other aircraft hijacked or missing. Instead, he and his staff worked on a statement to the press.

Here's a video of that moment in the classroom.

Finally, Froomkin finds the call for impeachment reaching an unavoidable fever pitch.

Here's Garrison Keilor:
The peaceful lagoon that is the White House is designed for the comfort of a vulnerable man. Perfectly understandable, but not what is needed now. The U.S. Constitution provides a simple ultimate way to hold him to account for war crimes and the failure to attend to the country's defense. Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence.

And Lewis Lapham:
I don't know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal -- known to be armed and shown to be dangerous.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Happy Katrina Mardi Gras: Fat Tuesday costumes

My Mardi Gras started out in the Bywater where I was supposed to join up with friends to march in the Krewe of St. Anne. I never found my friends, but as is always the case on Mardi Gras, I ran into lots of other friends, had incredible, serendipitous reunions with friends and acquaintances I haven't seen in years, and even ran into friends who left town but were back in New Orleans to celebrate -- and, I made some new friends.

That's the Mardi Gras I like to celebrate -- with friends and family. Did I get drunk? No -- it's not necessary. I had a mimosa, a bloody mary, and a beer for the entire day.

There were many fewer people in the French Quarter than in years past, but it was still crowded. Some years it's impossible to even move through some streets (like Bourbon Street).

The mood was the best I've ever experienced -- everyone was remarkably friendly and conversational -- and other people I ran into made the same comment.

I only wish there were more satirical political costumes, but like me, people have probably just been too busy to get their costumes together.

Me? I wore a tyvek suit that said "Make levees! Not war!" and a blue roof which had written on one side "F: The president," and on the other side "'Whatever the cost': 1) Full compensation to all owners and tenants for damages. 2) Coastal restoration now. 3) Cat 5 storm protection now." I didn't get a photo of my costume, so if anyone out there got one, I'd appreciate if you'd send it to me.

My initial idea was to wear a bead-throwing penis, wear a prison-striped tyvek suit, and wear a sign that said "Blow to impeach." Well, after three iterations of the penis cannon, I could only get the smallest beads launched about ten feet on a good attempt, so I gave up the idea. Later, I found a bubble gun and thought that would have been even cuter, but the damn thing didn't work. Then I considered that if one of those national cameras caught my costume, I'd much rather they broadcast the message about what New Orleanians are demanding from Washington, than that I be able to launch beads or bubbles from a penis cannon.

Happy Katrina Mardi Gras!

More at Yahoo photos.