Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas K+3

Is it just me, or are there far fewer Christmas lights up around town this year? It seems like even less than last year. I guess as is true to human nature, the novelty of having electricity again has worn away compared to last Christmas, the same way our new toys lose their luster after a few months.

I can't believe this is the THIRD Christmas since Katrina. What can one say to that? I got nothin.' So, I'll just pretend time isn't flying by by posting this little montage I made last year. It's a collection of images representing my memory of 2005 during Thanksgiving & Christmas of that year, my first trips home after having evacuated 8/28/05. It's a mixture of personal photographs and shots from the Times-Picayune that I was sifting through last year, and it turned into this, which ended up being quite therapeutic.

video

Actually, I guess we have come quite a ways since then.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, y'all.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Let's Be Honest Here

Can we please just call this battle to annex Timberlane subdivision to Gretna what it is? It's nothing more than the manifestation of that sick Greater New Orleans disease that causes wealthy and even barely-middle-class whites to insist they have the right to not have "people" (pronounced with the disgust normally deserved for rats) drive down THEIR street!! You can practically see their goosebumps from their gated entrances, can't you?

And the people in Bellemeade are just mad because the people in Timberlane are whiter and richer and about to beat them to the punch in closing their subdivision off.

Why does it irk me so? Because this is just the proliferation of the isolationism and parochialism and PURE SELFISHNESS that has destroyed this city and eventually this region, pretentious people with inflated concerns about securing their antiques while pretending to not have the time to tutor the schoolkids who, ironically, will drop out of school and grow up more likely to be the guy unloading their stupid antiques off the back of a delivery truck than the guy trying to steal them. It's no longer good enough to live in Jeff Parish because those black people have now moved to Terrytown and it only costs the ones from across the river .40 in toll with a toll tag to get to Timberlane Drive and -- yes, take the 3 minute drive down your street to get to either Lapalco or Belle Chasse Hwy at 30mph because no one is stupid enough to speed through there knowing how heavily police patrolled its been for 30 years. Jesus Gawd, the horror.

But whatever, go ahead. Go buy your fucking gate.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Insurance is a Fraud

SUCH A FREAKIN' FRAUD! I'd call it a "joke" if it weren't so immoral, or if it didn't make me want to cry from utter hopelessness everytime I think about it. So what the hell am I rambling about, you ask? The following is written VERBATIM in State Farm's Louisiana renter's insurance policy under the section titled "Losses Insured":

"1. Fire or lightning"

OK, simple enough. Right? One would think -- until one turns to the very next page titled "Losses Not Insured" and reads the following regarding "nuclear hazards":

"Loss caused by the nuclear hazard shall not be considered loss caused by fire, explosion or smoke.

However, we do insure for any direct loss by fire resulting from the nuclear hazard, provided the resulting fire loss is itself a Loss Insured."


My initial involuntary reaction was: "huh?", followed by the quickly growing realization of "WHAT THE F*-K IS THIS?!?"

What it is is a shameless, unconscionable, blatant tactic that allows the company to "rightfully" decide that they don't feel like compensating you for a particular loss.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I think I'll just write in Dorothy Mae Taylor for council at-large.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Like a Good (and Drunk) Neighbor at Your Daughter's Wedding Reception, We'll Ruin Your Dreams

Maybe this should be State Farm's new slogan since the cost of 2-4 years of homeowners' insurance now rivals the average cost of American weddings.

The average wedding in America, according to Bride's Magazine, costs $19,000.

Stationery, $374.

Bouquets and other flowers, $775.

Photography, videography, $1,253.

Wedding favors, $240.

The music, $745.

Clergy and church, $248.

Limo rental, $427.

Attendant's gifts, $299.

Wedding rings, $1,000.

Engagement ring, $2,982.

Rehearsal dinner, $762.

Bride's wedding dress, $790.

Bride's headpiece and veil, $150.

Bride's attendant's apparel (if you have 5), $720.

Mother of the bride apparel, $198.

Groom's formal wear (rented), $100.

Formal wear for ushers and best man (if you have 5) rented, $400.

Reception for 186 guests (which is the average attendance at a wedding), $7,246.

This comes to a grand total of $18,874.

I wonder what else price-gouging insurance premiums are robbing us of. For the many families who can't afford $19,000 weddings, I imagine they're having to choose between shelter and much more basic provisions.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Jackie Clarkson Changes Stance on Homelessness, Admits It's LikeTotally Like Not Good

Councilwoman-at-Large candidate Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, in a sudden change of opinion, has realized 9 days before the election that homelessness in New Orleans is a problem. In fact, "it's horrible"!

Possibly even more horrible than living in a FEMA trailer; but nowhere near the stupid human catastrophe putting FEMA trailers for future constituents on unusable golf courses in her neighborhood would be.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm A Born Loser...But You Should Still Listen to Me

According to this poll, which matches you with the presidential candidate closest to your ideology, my guy is...[DRUMROLLLLLLLL]...

Dennis Kucinich!


Dennis frickin' Kucinich? what the --?

Sadly, it reflects my abysmal performance in the voting booth in this last election. Only one of the candidates I voted for made it into the runoff. The others all lost. (I'm not including the Lt. Gov.'s race in these stats; that'd be like including flood insurance claim payouts in the federal figure of hurricane aid sent down here).

Just goes to show, this country continues to be screwed up because people can't make sensible choices like I can! Seriously though, there's not a chance in Hades I'll be endorsing Kucin --
-- wait a sec.

Maybe "not a chance in Hades" was a bit over the top.

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on Tuesday mockingly questioned President George W. Bush's mental health for saying Iran's nuclear ambitions might trigger World War III.

"I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health," Kucinich, a quirky, long-shot candidate in the race for his party's presidential nomination in the November, 2008 election. "There's something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact."

Kucinich spoke to the editorial board of The Philadelphia Inquirer ahead of a Democratic debate in Philadelphia.

Bush told a news conference two weeks ago: "I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interes4ed in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

Kucinich, a member of the U.S. Congress from Ohio, has tried in the past to convince his colleagues to impeach both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, to no avail.

He told The Inquirer he did not believe his remarks about Bush's mental stability were irresponsible.

"You cannot be a president of the United States who's wanton in his expression of violence," Kucinich said. "There's a lot of people who need care. He might be one of them. If there isn't something wrong with him, then there's something wrong with us. This, to me, is a very serious question."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

California-Louisiana Contrasts: More "Hot Air" from the Right

On the appropriately named conservative blog Hot Air, they are doing an excellent job following the Bush administration's lead of blowing smoke up our asses in times of crisis. However, they get much props for admitting the Right's long-known (but only recently to them, I think) technique of responding to obvious fact with "hot air" (Blog Founder: "We fight hot air with Hot Air." [Notice how their brilliant use of capitalization establishes once and for all that their Hot Air supersedes all other hot air. Plus, I'm pretty sure God said so in the Bible somewheres.)

Unfortunately, I don't think Californians need more hot air right now, and I know that those of us sweating to rebuild the Gulf Coast without much help from conservatives at the federal level don't need more of it.

It makes me ill to even give attention to their efforts to -- yet again -- politicize the destruction and death of fellow human beings. Nevertheless, I feel it my patriotic duty to point out -- yet again -- that the feds fucked up. Funny how the party of personal responsibility can't seem to own up to its own responsibilities. Louisiana's state and local officials could have supplied every survivor with handheld electric fans, frozen daiquiris and daily meals from Antoine's whilst they, our fellow Americans, waited for Lords Bush and Chertoff to decide whether the levees had been breached or merely overtopped before sending help (FYI: It makes no fucking difference!!!). REGARDLESS OF THE (IN)COMPETENCY OF BLANCO, NAGIN, JUNIOR RODRIGUEZ, WALTER MAESTRI, and even AARON "WOLFMAN" BROUSSARD, the simple fact remains that THE FEDS DROPPED THE BALL, THEN DRAGGED THEIR FEET PICKING IT UP WHEN IT CAME TO FULFILLING THE ROLE THEY HAD SET FORTH FOR THEMSELVES in the aftermath of Katrina... (that bitch, I might add).

It so happens that I am finishing a disturbingly eye-opening book called Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security (by Christopher Cooper & Robert Block)*, which highlights that Louisiana officials "excelled" in the areas of the FEMA-coordinated emergency plan that had been completed pre-Katrina. My friends at Hot Breath or whatever marvel at the wonder of a state enormously larger than Louisiana evacuating 250,000 people...over the course of a few days. Contrary to popular misbelief, you don't always get DAYS of warning that a hurricane will strike. About 1.2 million people left Greater New Orleans in less than 40 hours (less than 2 days in non-fuzzy math terms), without a fraction of the problems Texas had with evacuations only weeks later before Rita struck, AND there are really only 3 or 4 routes off this island commonly known as New Orleans.
*recently purchased copy at local Barnes&Noble for $5.98*

It took FEMA 5 days to get a communications truck to N.O. from Baton Rouge when the roads were clear heading into New Orleans, and 2 days to transport ice that was sitting only 40 miles away to Biloxi. The governors of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama literally picked up the feds' slack and orchestrated their own disaster plans, not because us po' Suh-thunahs cain't do fo' us-selves, but because the feds said for years had told them "Oh, don't worry about that. FEMA will do that," etc., etc.

There are tons more reasons you can't compare Katrina with the CA wildfires, as nicely laid out in Sunday's T-P feature, par exemple:

Katrina's scale of devastation and its impact on humanity, however, was far greater. The number of homes destroyed or still threatened in California is about 10 percent of the roughly 200,000 left uninhabitable by Katrina and the often overlooked Hurricane Rita, which struck three weeks later.

In New Orleans alone, 140 of 180 square miles flooded, -- rendering uninhabitable a residential zone seven times the size of Manhattan. Across the region, its winds and rains wreaked havoc to a 90,000-square-mile swath of the Gulf Coast, an area twice the size of the entire state of New York.

Katrina forced the evacuation of 1.2 million people -- 500,000 remained displaced after four months. Almost 2,000 people died in Katrina.

The death toll from the fires stood at seven as of Saturday.


But hey, facts schmacts -- the folks at Hot Ass Breath got some GREAT talking points out there, and what's more important and American than that?


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Times-Picayune Silent on Shady Contributions to Jindal Campaign

Why hasn't the Times-Picayune run a story, not even a "back-a-page" or below-the-fold story, about the $50,000 in campaign contributions Bobby Jindal received last Monday from several people (on the same day) tied to a Colorado company applying to open a landfill in a Louisiana town that the Department of Environmental Quality has already deemed unsuitable?

I only found out via a Saturday evening press release from the John Georges for Governor campaign. Politics of course, but his source was the Baton Rouge Advocate , which broke the story this weekend. I wonder if -- no!!!! -- the Times-Picayune would never sit on this story just because they endorsed Jindal!! How could you even suggest a thing?! For shame!

Although...it is strange that he would not comment, considering he even comments on not showing up at debates to share with us his comments. Jindal can't even answer a yes-or-no question in less than 65.84 words.
Jindal refused comment on the story. His spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said Jindal never discussed any landfill project when he spoke with the donors.

Jindal and the Colorado group discussed only how outside states can help Louisiana small businesses attract investors, Sellers said.


[umm...via campaign contributions in the final days of campaigning? i.e., too late to file on pre-election reports?]

Even though one of the contributors hung up the phone when asked if he had any connection to the Colorado company, I'm sure there are perfectly legitimate explanations.

Because Bobby "Ethics Reform, I Cannot Tell A Lie" Jindal said he's honest, and politicians are very honest and trustworthy people. And he love him some Jesus too!!

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Hallmark Card for Katrina Survivors?

I don't think Hallmark has a Katrina card, but if they did, it might say something like this. I didn't come up with it, but I'd like to pass it on to all those around here who feel they are barely hangin' on. From me, to you:

I'll bet you've had about enough
of people telling you how strong you are
and how great you are doing
during this awful, difficult
period in your life.


Maybe you'd rather hear someone say
how much this sucks, how outrageous
and unfair it is.
Maybe you'd rather hear someone tell you that you don't have to be strong
all the time.
Or that it's definitely okay
to curse fate and throw a tantrum or two.
So here I am to tell you
all that stuff and more,
to let you know where I stand,
which is right in your corner.
There's no right way or wrong way
at a time like this.
However you work through this thing
is immaterial to me.


All I care about is that
you ask for what you need,
lean on those who love you,
and try to trust me when I say
that you'll come out the other side.

~ Jeannie Hund

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Jill on S-CHIP Veto (and Getting Your Priorities Straight!)

President Chimpy actually vetoed health insurance for children. FOR CHILDREN Y'ALL! Thirty-five billion dollars is apparently too much to spend on making sure working- & middle-class kids stay healthy. A trillion or so in tax cuts for the wealthy is apparently not. Neither is a few hundred billion to CONTRACT out this war and Katrina clean-up to cronies in his inner circle.

If you didn't make noise over the tax cuts which decimated the Treasury, if you didn't pitch a fit when the 3 states hardest hit by Katrina & Rita received only 16% of the billions Congress allocated for recovery, then maybe it's time you call folks like Sen. Vitter, who says he will not vote to override this veto and remind them we put them there to actually be of HELP! (I think "Vitty Cent" done really lost his damn mind as of late.)



My first ever guest blogger, Jill, is not pleased; and she is back to have a word with some of you (you know who you are):

It's on, people! PLEASE MAKE YOURSELVES HEARD ON THIS ISSUE! There are tools all over the web for you to write letters and send emails to your congressmen and women; there will be rallies held all over the country tomorrow as well. Also, now is as good a time as any to check your voter registration -- if you're not registered, get registered; if you need to update, do it.

At the risk of calling folks out, I'll go ahead and make it plain -- I got about a hundred emails from people about that ignorant Don Imus some months ago. I got a ton about the "Read a *&^%^ Book" video. Some folks even sent messages expressing outrage at PepsiCo for taking "in God we trust" off of their marketing materials or some similar foolishness. If y'all have time and energy to engage that madness -- you've certainly got time and energy enough to stand up for the health and wellness of our poor and near poor children. Let your reps know in no uncertain terms that this is a priority issue, and their vote gets yours. Let's go!

All the best,
Jill

What the Hell Is Wrong with Senator Vitter?

I'm very displeased with Sen. David Vitter this morning, and not just because as one who is NOT a morning person, I'm normally displeased with everyone anyway at this hour (yes, even Mother Teresa). So you can imagine my ire as I read this, my first email of the day.

It seems Sen. Vitter is making excuses for not supporting our recovery. All the rest of our Congressional delegation, from both parties, have voted or will voted for the Gulf Coast Recovery Act of 2007, which among other things, allocates money to close the gap in the Road Home program. It's a fucking no-brainer. Even Bobby Jindal who is afraid to do or say ANYTHING that could cost him the election voted for it. Frickin' Jindal actually risked being seen in public where he could be asked why we should elect him governor {GASP!}to show up and vote for this thing!!

I don't know what kind of political save-face game Vitter is playing, or whether Giuliani or Bush or the Elephant Party is twisting his arm for some reason, but I'd like to remind him that he really doesn't have many "Oops, sorry y'all" credits left in his Constituent Trust Fund.

Look, we all get stressed out and let personal problems affect our work sometimes. So, I propose that anyone reading this take just a moment and contact the Senator [oh look, a sample letter!] to remind him what the hell he is supposed to be doing [i.e., covering OUR asses and not just his or one of the Wendy's], and reassure him this legislation will not help those dreaded whorehouses rebuild. Show the guy you understand his pain, and help him make the right decision on this one.


Contact Info:
Senator David Vitter
Email
Phone: 202.224.4623
Address: 516 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Jill on S-CHIP Reauthorization

This is a historic day for the N.O. - It's Just Me blog. For the first time, I present a guest blogger! I received an email from a dear college friend of yore, Jill of the Bay Area (i.e., San Francisco for the non-caffeinated folks & those educated in the Gret Stet of Loo-ziana) regarding President Bush's vow to veto a bill passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress to provide health insurance for uninsured children. I couldn't have written it more eloquently myself, and she has kindly allowed me to share her sentiments (her words in this reddish brown'range hue).

-------------------
Fratto said Bush might be amenable to increasing the funding level above his suggested $5 billion over five years if the expansion of eligibility was limited. Fratto said, "This should not be an issue where you decide what the funding is, and then (set) the policy," adding, "We should decide what the policy is and let the funding land where it lands." However, Fratto said that once a government program subsidizes children in families with annual incomes above 300% of the federal poverty level, "you are talking about people who are solidly within the middle class of America, and you are extending another unfunded entitlement to the middle class" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 9/28).
--------------------------------

Okay, the reauthorization and expansion is good news. The vote tallies below put a veto override vote barely within reach in the Senate and slightly out of reach in the House, if my math is correct. Promising attainability; however, it is REALLY disheartening that there should be any scramble for veto override votes, or support of any kind for this measure!


What's really got my blood boiling is the highlighted text, though. The words "unfunded entitlement to the middle class" make me want to shake somebody! Even if the allegation that this compromise measure would provide some unintended support for "middle class" families by extending coverage to families earning 300% above the federal poverty level, SO WHAT?! First, consider that the 2007 federal poverty guideline for the "American Dream" family (2 parents, 2.5 kids) is right around $24,000. That's right a family of FIVE is not considered poor within the federal guidelines until there income rock bottoms to $24,130. (http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/07poverty.shtml.) Three-hundred percent of $24,000 is $72,000 for a FIVE-PERSON HOUSEHOLD! That family needs some help!


Next, consider that one of the leading causes of bankruptcies in the United States is non-covered medical expenses. Finally, consider that the bankrutpcy code amendments that took effect in 2005 make it more difficult to fully discharge debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. One of the considerations used to determine eligibility for Chapter 7 discharge is a "means" test, whereby if a family's income is above the median income level for their particular state (based on family size / # earners, I believe), then guess what? That family might not be able to fully discharge their debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy! Sure, sure, other provisions apply, and I'm no bankruptcy lawyer, but dangit, common sense says that that puts full discharge out of reach for a greater number of "middle class" families -- particularly if earnings of 300% over the federal poverty level puts you "solidly within the middle class."


"Unfunded entitlement to the middle class," indeed! The only spot-on word in that phrase is "entitlement." We are entitled to have kids that are healthy without worrying about whether we're going to have to sell our blood, organs, houses, etc. in order to pay for care that ensures their health.


Grrrrr.... I'll stop seething and get back to work so that I won't be staring down that poverty level income figure in my personal economy, but it's gonna be a while before I stop cursing in my head about this one!


You probably got my message a couple of days ago (blank subject line -- sorry -- typing fast): CONTACT YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD ON THIS!


Be well (evidently you can't afford not to),

Saturday, September 29, 2007

THIS is a Democrat Party I'd Consider Rejoining

It's about time they grew a pair...

If Bush vetoes the legislation and Congress cannot override the veto, Democrats said that they will reintroduce the bill every six weeks to three months until Bush signs the bill or Republicans vote to override a veto. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "If the president refuses to sign the bill, if he says, with a veto, 'I forbid 10 million children in America to have health care,' this legislation will haunt him again and again and again" (Washington Post, 9/28). -Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report

Thursday, September 27, 2007

'Member What We Got Last Time We Voted for the Guy Promising to Restore Honor to a Public Office?

Just give conservative Republicans some value laden words that invoke a sense of morality and self-righteousness, and poof...you got a vote. Don't bother with the truth or anything important.

Responding to a Boasso ad on Jindal's record as Secretary of Health and Hospitals, Jindal's narrator alleges that "Walter Boasso and the corrupt crowd are desperate to keep power. First they attack Bobby Jindal for his Christianity. Now they're lying about Bobby's service to Louisiana." The narrator mentions the word corrupt twice more, and the ad ends with the written tag line: "The corrupt crowd. They won't stop until we stand up."

Yet another ad, which debuted late Friday, features a doctor lauding Jindal for cleaning up the department a decade ago. "The corruption crowd didn't like that much," he says. "That's why those guys are attacking Bobby Jindal right now." In just 30 seconds, the ad uses the word corruption four times.

Now, as far as I've heard, neither Campbell nor Boasso has been accused of pocketing illicit cash, unlike a previous gubernatorial candidate or two. Nor has anyone alleged that Boasso has done anything that Webster might consider corrupt. [Stephanie Grace, Times-Picayune]


Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Day in the Big Easy

It occurred to me, as an afterthought, that this excerpt from an email I wrote today to a friend/colleague might not make such a bad post for today:

Another day here in the Big Easy: Nagin nowhere to be found, racial tension in north LA (Jena), a woman known as "Mama Dee" is running for election to the council-at-large seat vacated by our latest indicted politician (even more interesting considering her history of being escorted out of council meetings for screaming that everything they do is "racist," including of course her managing to get herself kicked out of chambers), and the powers-that-be at the Army Corps of Engineers are rediscovering prayer as a tropical storm warning was just issued for the area. At least the weather is gorgeous, which we don't get to say too often.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

When No One and Everyone Is To Blame

I don't know why exactly I was relieved to learn the Manganos were acquitted of negligent homicide charges, but I guess it has something to do with erring on the side of not ruining peoples' lives for no good reason. Until I read more about the case just before trial started, my impression from media reports and Foti was that these heartless people just left senior citizens in their nursing home to die. After finding out that the Manganos stayed at St. Rita's with their children and grandchildren through the storm, my whole view of them changed. Mabel Mangano can't swim. We all knew the storm would be bad. We were all equally shocked to find out just HOW bad. Katrina's surge and the levee failures ushered in horrors beyond what most of us were really capable of understanding before August 29, 2005.

On the other hand, I can't totally let them off the hook. Were they responsible for those people who drowned? Yes. Fourteen hundred+ people died, so alot of us made a lot of mistakes and wrong decisions. As one juror said: "Why were these two people singled out when so many people made so many mistakes?"

My views have nothing to do with whether the state or the parish officially called for mandatory evacuation or not, or whether the Corps is to blame for levee failure. I'm not happy or sad for the Manganos or for those who died and their families or for you and me, because this disaster and our actions during those tense, horrific days, like so much in life, can't be shoved into the black-or-white, right-vs.-wrong, guilty-or-innocent mentality that pervades our answer-seeking, justice-must-be-done culture. Many tragedies do not happen because people are greedy or evil or reckless but because tragedies happen. Shortsightedness, foolheartedness, and poor judgment are human nature; and they may be to blame, but do they a criminal make?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

And Now...For Some Much Needed Peaceful Reflection

For lack of time, or wasteful use of it, I haven't had the chance to share my thoughts on Dubya's K+2 visit to us. As it turns out, everybody -- from Shelley Midura, to James Gill, to my personal blogger friends, and even the BR Advocate editorial staff -- more or less shared what I probably would have.

I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't share at least one thought I had about Bush and his visit.



Come to think of it, that pretty much sums it up for me.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mahalia Jackson - Just A Closer Walk With Thee


One of New Orleans' finest, a gift to all the world. There's just something about hearing HER sing THIS song at this time of commemoration. If you have even the slightest bit of New Orleans in you, you know exactly why I can't even find the words to explain

Thursday, August 30, 2007

K+2 Anniversary, NPR, and 15 Minutes of Fame

It was my pleasure and quite an honor to be invited to share my thoughts, as I do on my blog, on NPR's News & Notes roundtable bloggers segment with host Farai Chideya (of whom I am a long time fan and consider a rockstar, but thankfully the nervous anticipation of speaking to her subsided enough that I didn't throw up on air). And as if that weren't enough, I had a blast hanging out with the fellow local bloggers responsible for The G-Bitch Spot and Cliff's Crib who are just fantastic to kick it with, as anyone who is familiar with their work would assume.

Click on the title of this post for audio of the segment (which FLEW by way too fast!). But at least they didn't try to censor us, unlike our local lovable Chris Rose on Oprah's K+2 anniversary show.

I wanted to post this yesterday, but my day took an unexpected turn when I met Katina, one of those truly great Americans who see a problem and then get to fixing it using whatever raw talent and wherewithal God gave them. It seemed as good a way as any to spend the anniversary helping her help us by suggesting ideas for the documentary Katina is making to promote the ultimate goal of her New Orleans: A Labor of Love mission. Her goal is to not only recruit 5000 volunteers to continue coming here through 2008, but to also serve as a resource to help them navigate the Bizarro life of our Third World nation-state. I'll be posting more about my overall impressions from August 29, 2007.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

8 Percent...

I'm still shocked and quite unnerved about a story I heard on local radio nearly two days ago. EIGHT PERCENT of New Orleanians are apparently suicidal, according to a study that followed up on 800 of an original 1000 people surveyed 6 months post-Katrina. People in hard hit Mississippi aren't faring much better as about 6% of survivors there now admit to currently considering killing themselves. I hear a million disheartening stories a day about our (un)recovery, and they all upset me, but this one...I'm scared speechless.

I've been busy moving to a new place (don't worry, friends -- I'm still in N.O.!) but I don't think I've been SO removed from society that I may have missed our public officials' alarmed reaction to this news. Maybe I did. I know we're down on our politicians right now, and we have every reason to be. At the same time, I know they're so overloaded that they can't react to EVERY negative development right away. But, my Gawd, nearly one-tenth of their constituents is contemplating suicide seriously enough to tell research assistants from way across the country that they feel they can't go on anymore! Hello...that's a cry for help! What more do we need to do?! Throw up the fuckin' bat signal?

[Sidenote: Anyone planning to post a comment about how we are only whining for help and won't get off our asses or that we should let this "cesspool" sink into the sea can kiss my ass on Canal Street.]

I realize that stats and epidemiology comes across as Greek alot of times (assuming one doesn't speak Greek), so let me put some context around this:
  • The National Mental Health Association estimate that 4% of American adults contemplate suicide. If I figure correctly, based on the optimistic population count of 300,000, the 8% translates into 8,000 New Orleanians per every 100,000 who are thinking of killing themselves.
  • The National Institutes of Health reported that in 2004, 10.9 per every 100,000 people killed themselves, and estimated there are 8-25 attempts (or roughly 87.2-272.5 attempts per 100,000 persons) for every completed suicide. Attempting is different from contemplating, but I can't help but assume we're blowing national estimates out of the fucking water. If even 1% of those considering suicide here were to take their lives, that' d still put us at 80 (compared to 10.9) per every 100,000, which would mean 640 to 2000 New Orleanians per every 100,000 residents will attempt to take their lives within a year's time.
Overcoming major adversity can give people hope and perspective on things; feeling like there's no way out of hard times does not. I fear that the window for recovery has closed for some people. Everyone is worn down, I know, but we must somehow find the energy and concern to check on those around us. Sometimes a simple, "Seriously, how are you?" will give someone the chance to unload enough of their burden to get them through.

If you find yourself in the 8%, you are certainly not alone. Don't let shame or a sense of doom and hopelessness lead you to do something that will only add to the greater misery. And remember, you're doing alot to aid our recovery simply by not being a politician. (And if you're a politician, just remember you haven't even come close to fucking things up like those idiots we elected to serve with you).

In all seriousness, here are some resources if you or someone you know could use a few

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good News, For a Change

A simple click on the title of this post will bring you to a bit of sunshine, that is, if you love New Orleans. It's a news clip about Tulane just inducting its largest 1st year medicine class ever -- 173 students -- who actually chose to come here. Their comments give one a bit of hope about the future. The med school specifically added 20 spots and 20,000 sq. ft. of space in order to train more doctors to help rebuild the healthcare system, so it says in the news story. It also reported that about 1/3 of each graduating class remains here for residency, and faculty think even more will stay if the new state-of-the-art proposed LSU/VA complex is built.

The med school even lured Harvard's dean Benjamin Sachs, MD. Maybe at least the medical brain drain is beginning to turn around. The state was even gracious enough to give us back a few psychiatric hospital beds. ALOT of well-meaning people have moved here, like the teachers chomping at the bit to teach here and the folks starting charter schools. For the ones who won't get scared away after a few weeks -- because some will (wimps), it might be a nice idea to try and make things nice enough around here so they'll want to stay. (I don't know where I get these zany idears from.)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life

"Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory,or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities."

"In the world of business, the term “microinequities” is used to describethe pattern of being overlooked, underrespected, and devaluedbecause of one’s race or gender. Microaggressions are often unconsciously delivered in the form of subtle snubs or dismissive looks, gestures, and tones. These exchanges are so pervasive and automatic in daily conversations and interactions that they are often dismissed andglossed over as being innocent and innocuous. Yet, as indicated previously, microaggressions are detrimental to persons of color because they impair performance in a multitude of settings by sapping the psychic and spiritual energy of recipients and by creating inequities (Franklin,2004; D. W. Sue, 2004)."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I know there will be more than a few white people reading this, already getting set to roll their eyes all over their heads because "now that they can't find real racism, they gotta go make up this 'racial microaggression' bull!" The term sounds juuuust a bit dramatic to me too, and I'm a black psychologist so trust me -- I have used my share of "weird" terminology. But before folks just reflexively dismiss this as "P.C., bleeding heart liberal, Rainbow Coalition" shenanigans, I hope they at least consider WHY such a phenomenon couldn't exist? It's easy to say, "oh that's just baloney," but tell me why it's baloney.

Receiving this article from
American Psychologist serendipitously occurred at the end of a week during which allegations of police brutality against a young black boy inspired many an exasperated citizen-neighbor to vent on talk radio shows and porches. More frustrating was hearing two black women, one from N.O. and another from Metairie, consecutively tell two remarkably disgusting and frightening stories about run-ins with local officers only to be followed by a white male police officer who was obviously feeling a bit demoralized and shocked that his fellow officers could do such a thing.

That was his sentiment at first anyways.

You could almost hear him processing his disappointment in some law enforcers' behaviors. Then he said, "Those stories are SO frightening and just awful, I have a hard time believing all of it." Granted, a normal reaction when most are given shocking news. That opinion then quickly became, "I really don't think everything in those womens' stories were true." But why?

Aside from the issue of how white people feel they can give authoritative answers regarding the existence of discrimination, a minority who alleges discrimination has to bear the burden of proof to be believed, yet frustrated white people are often let off the hook with maybe an anecdote and data that's usually more perception ("Mexicans are moving in all around here") than fact ("Three Latino families moved into 3 houses in a1000-home subdivision - and 2 of those 3 families are actually the American born descendants of mid-century Puerto Rican immigrants").

Anyway, this article nicely lays out what racism looks like these days, and why most white people can't see it. Are minorities overly sensitive about race? Probably. Most people who've endured traumatic things get touchy when one mentions or does something related to such a painfully negative situation. (So even if you think it's all just in our heads, this should at least answer that age old question: '
Why are you people so angry?") The main audience of this article is counseling professionals, but anyone who can read or have it read to them will learn something beneficial (in my opinion). If not, then ask yourself why the odds are such that you are right; and then maybe even consider why it is impossible for racist interactions to occur so much?
"Most White Americans experience themselves as good, moral, and decent human beings who believe in equality and democracy. Thus, they find it difficult to believe that they possess biased racial attitudes and may engage in behaviors that are discriminatory (D. W. Sue, 2004). Microaggressive acts can usually be explained away by seemingly nonbiased and valid reasons."
And yes, please consider it without switching the focus to nefarious reasons this "liberal doctrine is being forced upon us in this election cycle!!"

----------------------------------------------------------------
More Excerpts from American Psychologist, D.W. Sue et al., 2007:
Microinvalidations are characterized by communications
that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts,
feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color. When
Asian Americans (born and raised in the United States) are
complimented for speaking good English or are repeatedly
asked where they were born, the effect is to negate their
U.S. American heritage and to convey that they are perpetual
foreigners.


When a Latino couple is given poor service at a restaurant
and shares their experience with White friends, only to be
told “Don’t be so oversensitive” or “Don’t be so petty,” the
racial experience of the couple is being nullified and its
importance is being diminished.

White Americans tend to believe that minorities are doing better in life, that discrimination is on the decline, that racism is no longer a significant factor in the lives of people of color, and that equality has been achieved. More important, the majority of Whites do not view themselves as racist or capable of racist behavior. Minorities, on the other hand, perceive Whites as (a) racially insensitive, (b) unwilling to share their position and wealth, (c) believing they are superior, (d) needing to control everything, and (e) treating them poorly because of their race. People of color believe these attributes are reenacted everyday in their interpersonal interactions with Whites, oftentimes in the form of microaggressions (Solo´rzano et al., 2000). For example, it was found that 96% of African Americans reported experiencing racial discrimination in a one-year period (Klonoff & Landrine, 1999), and many incidents involved being mistaken for a service worker, being ignored, given poor service, treated rudely, or experiencing strangers acting fearful or intimidated when around them (Sellers & Shelton, 2003).


Saturday, July 28, 2007

This Explains EVERYTHING...

From Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans (Garvey & Widmer, 2002, 11th ed.):


"Many paupers who strayed into Paris, or prisoners who would not volunteer were kidnapped and shipped, under guard, to fill the emptiness of Louisiana. Prostitutes, and the inmates of jails and hospitals, were all sent to populate the colony and to start the flow of wealth to the stockholders.

Franz, in his Kolonisation des Mississippitales (Leipzig, 106), writes [of the Company of the West, an entity charged with settling the new French colony]:

'The company even kept a whole regiment of archers which cleaned Paris of its rabble and adventurers, and received for this a fixed salary and 100 livres a head . . . . .Five thousand people are said to have disappeared from Paris in April, 1721, alone.'

'Prisoners were set free in Paris in September, 1721 . . . under the condition that they would marry prostitutes and go with them to Louisiana. The newly married couples were chained together and thus dragged to the port of embarkation.'"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It Figures...a Retard Analyzed Latest N.O. Death Rate Data

A follow-up to my previous post...

...wherein I commented about the state's recent conclusion that there has been no significant increase in New Orleans' death rate post-K: "
There are idiots aplenty in B.R. but not stupid enough to make that sort of basic ass mistake."

Ever a slave to the truth, and thus beholden to setting the record straight, I have no choice but to point out the (irreverently humorous and insensitive politically incorrect) fact that a "Retard" was indeed responsible for analyzing the death rate data. State epidemiologist Raoult Retard, to be precise. See for yourself.


Posted: Saturday, 09 June 2007 9:10AM N.O. health official wants more than stats on city deaths

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The director of the city's health department says a recent study by state health officials seriously downplays an increase in the New Orleans area's post-Katrina mortality rate.

Dr. Kevin Stephens says New Orleans has an astounding death rate and something needs to be done about it.

DHH epidemiologist Raoult Retard used death certificates from New Orleans and surrounding parishes for his study and said that the only increase was a ``slight'' one in early 2006, when it jumped from 11-point-3 per 1000 to 14-point-3 per thousand.

Stephens noted that the increase is a leap of more than 25 percent. He sent a letter to Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Fred Cerise calling their study disappointing and saying it seriously downplays the true health care crisis facing New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005.

The state study did not include complete figures for the latter part of 2006. DHH spokesman bob Johannessen says those will be included in an updated study that should be released within a couple of weeks.

Stephens said the study should have been held until all the 2006 figures are available and it should include out-of-state deaths of residents who fled Katrina. But even though it was incomplete, Stephens said, the increase that it found should be alarming.


I was going to just end with that, but the following tidbit was the subject of an elaborate post that was lost forever just as I finished it, of course. The tidbit is that a band of either really loony or really ruthless legislators will present this week House Concurrent Resolution No. 171, which calls for moving the LSU School of Medicine to Baton Rouge -- because clearly they haven't fucked us enough.

I would never suggest a sinister connection between downplaying the death rate in N.O. and this proposal arguing we don't need TWO whole med schools in N.O. (they say we already have Tulane!). Besides, a "Retard" could never pull off such a conspiracy, and it's pure coincidence that the first place most dying people think to go to not die is a hospital.

Like I said, just a tidbit I wanted to share


Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Louisiana" Abandons New Orleans

It hasn't been easy for me to work lately. So when I just now got the rare urge to work on a manuscript that's been hanging over my head since God was a boy, I opened my browser to connect to a writing-friendly music station, only to be greeted by this headline on my homepage (the entire article is also at the end of this post):

"Katrina still killing, medical experts say:

They say stress-related deaths escaping official notice; state disagrees"


The state whats? Disagrees?! Seems logical to me that if post-K stress interferes with my normal psychological functioning (i.e., ability to be productive), it's not too far fetched to believe it's still stressful enough to kill people. The fact that I can't focus on my work because I get so angry I can't concentrate is all the proof I need that the goddamn state is wrong. The human body can only handle so much vitriol and despair.

But the state ain't wrong in the sense that it simply disagrees. They know exactly what the truth is, and they know they just don't give a damn about it. I don't need anymore proof that the folks in Baton Rouge: 1) don't care what happens to us; 2) doesn't realize that they need New Orleans to survive since we're the economic engine that keeps this state afloat; or 3) are trying to get rid of us holdouts so they can get their hands in the money pot once we're dead or have moved away out of disgust.

If they really wanted to acknowledge the truth, they'd use death rates from January 2005 as the basis for comparison, not rates from January 2006 -- after the storm. There are idiots aplenty in B.R. but not stupid enough to make that sort of basic ass mistake. Comparing post-K death rates to post-K death rates? C'mon, 7th graders could find the flaws in that sort of logic.

The legislature's failure to prioritize our area's needs is yet more proof that "Louisiana" (which I put in quotes because our REAL state government would be working for US) has abandoned us. They don't want to put up any of the $3 billion, which comes from OUR rebuilding boom, to draw down more federal money for the Road Home program. Jim Donelon and Blanco ain't doing shit to ease the insurance crisis except ease the insurance companies' burdens by giving them money instead of advocating for the people they represent. The state's insurance program of last resort, in its wind-only policies offered to people who can't otherwise get wind coverage, won't cover expenses incurred to live elsewhere while your home is damaged and only covers depreciated value and not replacement cost. And do we really think it's just happenstance that the state has not lifted a pinky finger to use state money or even FEMA money to provide one fucking inpatient psychiatric bed within 50 miles of the city? I guess I'd be denying that psychological stress was still killing people down here too.

I always thought the lack of action from the state was good ole Lou-ziana incompetence, but it seems clear to me now that they know exactly what they're NOT doing.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Katrina still killing, medical experts say

They say stress-related deaths escaping official notice; state disagrees
11:34 AM CDT on Sunday, June 3, 2007
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – The bodies are no longer being dragged from houses and buildings toppled or swamped by Hurricane Katrina, but nearly two years later, many medical experts think the storm is still killing.

Storm survivors are dying from the effects of both psychological and physical stress, with the causes including dust and mold still in dwellings, financial problems and fear of crime, health experts and officials said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Katrina is still killing our residents," said Dr. Frank Minyard, coroner for Orleans Parish. "People with pre-existing conditions that are made worse by the stress of living here after the storm. Old people who are just giving up. People who are killing themselves because they feel they can't go on."

Some say an in-depth federal analysis is needed, despite a new state report that found no significant increase in deaths in the New Orleans area from January 2006 through June 2006. The state Department of Health and Hospitals is still compiling figures for the last six months of 2006.

Some New Orleans doctors questioned the accuracy of the population figures used to determine the death rate, saying they might have been too high. Dr. Fred Cerise, secretary for the Department of Health and Hospitals, said he is comfortable with the population data, which he said came from the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The city was abandoned after Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005, and many people did not begin returning until mid-2006.

The official Katrina death toll in New Orleans stands at about 1,100. State health officials said deaths haven't been listed as Katrina-related since the end of 2005, except for bodies found under storm wreckage. But Dr. Minyard said he believes that the hurricane is still behind many deaths.

Dr. Ronald Kessler, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and head of a group that has monitored 3,000 exiled Katrina survivors, said reconstructing an individual's mental and physical state before death might help in determining exact causes of death.

"There are high rates of mental health problems among the survivors, and previous research has found that mental disorders are predictors of earlier death rates," Dr. Kessler said.

Said Dr. Minyard, "Years from now, when they talk about post-traumatic stress, New Orleans after Katrina will be the poster child."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm Tired, and They're Stupid

My 3 loyal readers have probably been wondering why I dropped off the face of the earth. It started innocently enough. Things picked up at work; I decided to focus on taking care of neglected areas of my life. I got lazy and used to not blogging, and once I'm in a pattern...

Work also started to get busy on top of really starting to suck, and in post-K New Orleans, it doesn't take much for me to give into the urge to say: fuck it. i'm tired. i'm just done! stick a fork in me.

There's been lots I've wanted to say. God knows there's no shortage of absurdity to comment on around here -- just haven't had the time or energy. Fortunately, all my thoughts can be summed up into what may just end up being my mantra: I'M TIRED; AND THEY'RE STUPID!

I'm also real fuckin' tired of "The Stupid." You know, our legislators, leaders, etc... I can't believe some of the shit they've proposed in the legislature, like raising auto insurance rates -- because we're not paying enough insurance. But then again maybe that bill sponsor was on to something; since more and more people will be living in their cars while waiting on Road Home payouts, maybe we should pay more to cover the belongings we'll be hauling around.

The haggling over using Road Home money to pay flood only or wind damage too? If this ain't another cheap stalling tactic, then I'm starting a petition to amend the city charter so Nagin can run again.

A bill to add about 25cents tax per beer to fund building a mental health hospital in St. Tammany? First, why the tax? it's exorbitant AND shouldn't such an emergency need be eligible for coverage under ohh i don't know...emergency funds or part of the $3 bill+ surplus? Second, if the hospital is an urgent need for the New Orleans area since the city lost so many psych beds, has it occurred to anyone to fucking build one in New Orleans?!?

Somebody needs to tell these folks that they're doing a horrible job at hiding how badly they want this city to change.

This pales in comparison to prior posts, but i figured maybe posting any thing might get me back into posting more often.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Friday's Flood

Just thought I'd share my little piece of Friday's adventure. It's not exactly breaking news, 4 days after the fact, but whatever.

This was LaSalle St. between Tulane Ave & Canal St (Canal St. being just yards to the right of this shot) at approx. 1:35PM Friday, May 4. Mine is the little dark blue Jetta. In the less than a minute it took to take this shot, the water went up maybe another inch before I waded in nearly knee-deep to rescue the only thing besides this computer that I own outright! We made it, by the way.

And to think that I took finding such a great (i.e., free) parking spot as the sign of the beginning of a good day...
Posted by Picasa

It's Called "INVESTING IN ONE'S FUTURE"

Yet another example of how our leaders' small-mindedness and lack of foresight and ingenuity only feed the ignorance of our populace and hold us down. Senator Vitter is reacting as if building a world-class medical complex is the absolute worst idea ever proposed. I've posted my thoughts on this before . (In a nutshell, I'm all for going bigtime on this thing. I mean, raise your hand if you'd rather not have the best doctors and hospitals in your own city. Unless, of course, you enjoyed your exodus in Houston so goddamn much, you'd do anything to go all the way to M.D. Anderson for treatment.)

It's also funny how those with access to the best in life (and who will do anything to keep that standard of living) suddenly become all apoplectic when the rest of us would like to use OUR public money to get the best for US. That's a whole 'nother post though. I'm not at all knocking the awesome healthcare providers we've had past and present. But what's wrong with aiming higher?

Why haven't things gotten better here in the past several decades? Because people here want easy answers.
Crime's up? Just lock everybody up in jail.
The schools suck? Just blame parents and morality.
Huge fuckin' pothole on your street? Ehh, just put some cones and yellow caution tape around it. Aw shoot, it's flooding again? Just go rake your damn leaves out of the catch basins!

Oh, we forgot to re-open the hospitals down there? Just throw some paint on Charity and open it back up like it was before.

To OPPOSE improving pretty much the only industry we had aside from tourism just plain don't make a lick o' sense to me.

Wake up, my neighbors! It's time to realize we have to INVEST in our future, which means putting something IN to get something good out. Most good things don't come without sacrifice, and these days good healthcare sure as hell don't come cheap.

Friday, April 20, 2007

City ABOVE the sea

Here's something I found interesting. Yet another refutation of all the simplified info that's fed to America by the national media, who are useless, by the way. I must say that even I didn't realize that as much as 1/2 the city is ABOVE sea level.

Here are a few of the most enlightening excerpts:
"Innumerable media reports following Hurricane Katrina described the topography of New Orleans as unconditionally below sea level," the study notes. "This oversimplification is inaccurate by half, and its frequent repetition does a great disservice to the city."

"After Katrina smacked the city, floodwaters soaked above- sea-level parts of the Holy Cross neighborhood, but did not inundate parts of Bywater at roughly the same elevation. The location and severity of levee failures determined which of those areas flooded. The same was true for below- sea-level areas on different sides of the 17th Street Canal. Floodwaters spewed into Lakeview from a collapsed section of the floodwall on the Orleans side while some low-lying parts of Metairie remained dry because they were behind the Jefferson Parish side of the floodwall, which held."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards...Baddest-Ass Human Alive?

"Elizabeth Edwards remains open, upbeat... Not once did the shadow of fear cross her face. Elizabeth Edwards stood before the nation, a graceful fighter steeled for personal tragedy again." -MSNBC.com


The story speaks for itself. (Maybe SHE needs to be the one running for president?) hmm...


Monday, March 19, 2007

It's Easier Than Being Here

During a search for something useful, I came across this mess instead. Yet another rambling tirade about how pathetic and lazy we are down here, how it's solely local government's fault, blah blah blah... I was wondering once again why it is that people from other places feel so secure in declaring what our problem is, especially when it's clear they haven't even had the decency to come see us in person.
"Of course, you see great swaths of destruction that haven't been touched for a year. Can you imagine your city or township doing nothing for over a year and a half? I can't. And of course, the British driver asks why the richest nation on earth hasn't done anything in New Orleans. It would be impossible to explain to him, that in America, no one is going to help those who won't help themselves in the first place."

Then it occurred to me: it's much easier to do that than it is being here because if you've been here, even for a brief visit, you'll have no choice but to sit in despair for a moment once the enormity, the senselessness, and the continuing injustice of it all hits you. It's easier to say the people of Mississippi have their shit together and are already well on the road to recovery than it is to acknowledge that even though we had more damage, Mississippi continues to receive more money. It's not as easy to see the more balanced reality, to go to the coast and see the FEMA trailers still sitting beside Mississippi slabs because Mississippi didn't include them in their rebuilding program.

It's easy to cast us as immoral or lazy or welfare dependent, but it's not as easy to admit that you are in the same social class and economic boat that 75-80% of New Orleanians were on August 28,2005, which means you are equally prepared for disaster. It's not as easy to go on about daily life once you know that the insurance companies you paid for coverage will leave you out in the cold too when you need it but that you better keep working hard to pay those premiums anyway because you'll lose your home if you don't. It's easy to ignore the fact that lazy, dependent people wouldn't be here working full time jobs and then going home at night to fix their houses themselves because they haven't seen a dime of insurance money or the phantom $110 billion Bush swears he sent down here. It's easy to blame local government officials for ineptitude and not so easy to understand that they too are awake at night trying to figure out how to afford insurance premiums and how to come up with the local 10% match for FEMA funds that the federal government has waived in every other disaster except this one. It sure as hell ain't easy to enjoy life knowing that even though the U.S. Corps of Engineers published several hundred pages admitting the levees failed because of them, the feds aren't obligated to compensate you for the losses they caused. It's easier to say "they should have known better!" than to admit that most Americans live in disaster-prone areas and to not believe those who protect you when they say you're safe. It's easier than being here to say from way over there that we're not doing anything to reopen schools when you've never met the superintendent and school staff who are on their 19th month of 4 hours of sleep each night, or the parents who trek their kids across town and back because their neighborhood school is closed, or the parents who get their kids to school regardless of how far away they had to live -- this week, or the cafeteria and maintenance workers who catch a commuter bus 1.5 hours each way everyday to get to work.

It's not easy to feel helpless with the knowledge that the death rate here is still 50% higher than it was pre-Katrina and that it ain't crime that's killing them (unless you count the price-gouging, insurance fraud white-collar type of crime). It's a hell of alot easier to pontificate from on high than it is to open the daily paper to find that 19 months later your fellow Americans in the New Orleans area are still dying from the stress of losing everything they had and from spending every moment worrying, rebuilding, and fighting to stay out of another bout of deep despair. And let me tell you, lazy and dependent people don't feel that level of stress and fatigue.

I guess if I lived somewhere else, I'd sleep better too if I didn't let myself understand that horrible things happen to good, hard-working people like me and that the world is not at all fair or just. God knows it was easier for me to get through the day when I thought that living right, working hard, paying taxes, and being self-sufficient and moral all but guaranteed me a secure existence.