Monday, January 29, 2007

Welcome to the Jungle

(Much love to Gentilly Girl for the heads up on this one.)

Hey America,

Sorry. This couldn't have happened to nicer people. Like most of you, I thought all 146 were in the New Orleans area. Only 6 are in Louisiana.

I know! It's a horrible way to find out, but at least you guys got some warning. It pains me to welcome you to our reality, although honestly, those of you who insisted we were entirely to blame for being stupid enough to live here needed the wake-up call. As did those of you who said "well they knew it was going to happen!" So, when are you moving?

146 Levees May Fail in Flood (USA Today)
"Spokesman Pete Pierce says the corps does not want to release the list of the 146 places where levees have been identified as inadequate until all levees are inspected and all communities with faulty levees are notified."

Allow me to explain / translate for my fellow Americans who are not used to dealing with FEMA and the Corps of Engineers: He's not kidding. He actually meant what he said.

And no, they do not let the mentally retarded serve as spokespersons!

Show's Over, Folks! The Jig Is Up

Sunday's Times-Picayune top story, the "Long, Hard Road Home" (Jan. 28, 2007) was nearly an epic tome by newspaper standards (or maybe I just read slower than usual). The writer did an excellent and exhaustive job combining disparate sources of information into one coherent piece. So, I don't want to downplay his work when I ask: HOW MUCH LONGER ARE WE GOING TO LET THE STATE AND ICF FUCK US? (pardonnez mon francais).

Again we have the same list of state officials saying they have done all they can to prod ICF into acting more quickly, followed by another disgusting litany of ICF officials (especially that Michael Byrne) saying ICF had no idea they would need more staff. And his newest defense that he is just a poor public speaker? (The writer of the article did a nice job of letting the juxtaposition of Byrne's impeccable resume refute this sorry lame ass claim).

What I'd like to know is how long are we going to fall for this act? A June 30, 2006, ICF press release stated that the Road Home registry already "exceeded 90,000 applicants" and that they were expecting another 30,000 to apply. Another ICF press release from October 19, 2006, stated there were an estimated 123,000 eligible Road Home recipients.

Why is The Times-Picayune running around in circles with state officials and ICF when ICF's own website contains evidence that they are lying? Are things that bad for our esteemed institutions? Do we need a bake sale and a fish fry to raise money to buy internet access for Gov. Meemaw and the T-P so that they can say "BULLSHIT!" the next time ICF says they did not expect such a high demand of applicants? State officials like Suzie Elkins and Sam Jones should have called ICF on this a long time ago, which if you ask me, would have been much easier than trying to convince us they have done their jobs by sending strongly worded e-mails to ICF telling them to pick up the pace.

The only things I am left wondering are what do state officials have to gain by always stopping short of calling ICF to task and actually doing something to hold them accountable and when are we going to stop falling for this charade and tell our incompetent government leaders to take a hike?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Young Student's Documentary Leaving Audiences Stunned

A high school student recently filmed her replication of the Kenneth & Mamie Clark "doll studies," well known within psychology, or to anyone studying ethnic identity development.

As cynical as I usually am, I found myself surprised by what she found. I then asked myself what results did I expect.

My honest answer: I don't know.

This, by the way, is not one of the series of studies I referred to in my previous blog entry. I just found out about this study today. However, assuming it was done properly, this study is a thought-provoking example of how deep issues of race may be and how early associations about race are embedded in our psyches. There are other possible explanations, sure, but this is another reason why it is not so far flung to suspect that people are "subconsciously racist."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Kindler, Gentler Racism?

Governor Blanco made the following comment about Nagin and New Orleans' majority black government:

"Blanco has said Nagin's office has difficulty understanding the process through which federal aid flows and has urged Nagin staff to be more 'hands on.'"

Again, I think Nagin and company are doing a horrible job, so criticism is certainly warranted. The motivation behind this particular critique, however, I find questionable. Anything is possible, but I find it hard to believe that her conception does not flow from our society's tendency to question the intelligence and capability of black people, despite any evidence to the contrary. Because several factors likely led to this conceptualization of the problem, her view is, at best, only partly rooted in a stereotype that has been instilled in Americans of every race.

Note that she criticizes not the inefficiency of city government, but a core intrapersonal trait, their ability to understand something complicated.

I speak not only from personal experience but with the knowledge that multiple studies show that white people, even when they don't consciously believe or support such stereotypes, still subconsciously link black people to poverty, crime, and lower levels of achievement in psychological experiments. Even when they have documentation of a black person's socioeconomic standing or achievement, white people as a group (not all white people) still tend to underestimate that black person's social class and level of education, or undervalue that evidence. (e.g., Dovidio et al., 2002; other relevant studies )

It's the new racism. Twenty-first century prejudice. An almost kindler, gentler racism, subtle, unconscious, and even unintended and contrary to one's conscious and espoused beliefs. But it's still there and still every bit as wrong.

Friday, January 19, 2007

This Is What We're Dealing With, People

If you think this starts out incredibly, wait until the 1 min., 10 sec. mark.

Thoughts on the $595 Million Question

Thanks to Alan for bringing this to folks' attention.

U.S. Homeland Security says we blew off a buttload of money because we didn't request it.

It's quite an incendiary move for the feds to call a press conference to discredit local government. I'll be the last one fighting to join Nagin's fan club, but this article mentioned some things that make me question DHS's statements. Of course, I could be wrong, but these are my thoughts:

1. I recall that as recently as November-ish the contractor FEMA had handling reimbursement requests had to go back and recalculate their figures because their reimbursement amounts were too low. (Wish I could find a link to that.) So, I wonder WHEN did New Orleans get 96% of the available $311 million?

2. The article states: "Once the proper documentation is submitted, the money is available for replacing city property..." Making money available for something and actually using it for that purpose are two different things. Of course the money was "available" because Congress had to approve its allocation before it could have been offered to us.

3. Then there's the part about the City not only missing out on "available" money but having to actually give money back (the $1.7 million in interest made off of $102 million dollars in federal money held by the City last year). Why is this even a point DHS would make if we were not supposed to have the $1.7million in the first place since you can't collect interest off of federal money? Clearly, that was not money set aside for recovery anyway. And please, $1.7million? What would that fix, like two Popeye's and a snowball stand?

All that said, the reimbursement process to a regular citizen like me has always seemed esoteric and shrouded in mystery, so the City's role in using and acquiring funds needs to be looked at -- like right away. And what the fuck is Nagin doing in NYC, again? Must be nice to get away from your problems.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Coincidence? Hmmm...

This week we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King. This week many of us are frustrated that not everyone gets that we are in this deflating lifeboat of a city together. So I think it's cool that I happened to get an email today with a Dr. King quote eloquently expressing that sentiment:

"In a real sense all life is inter-related.

All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be,

and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

This is the inter-related structure of reality."

--Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 15, 2007

OK, How Abooouut...Now!

I've been sitting here the last few hours going back and forth on how angry I should be right now. Not because I'm a hateful prick, but because it was my involuntary reaction when I picked up today's Times-Picayune to see in Section B, Page 1, a mediocre article on the murder of a young man aged 24 years, 2 days. His name is Chivas Doyle, and he is a Black American and a New Orleanian.

You know where this is going, don't you? Here goes.

Why does Helen Hill get front page, more than once, but Mr. Doyle, whom the paper described as a well-liked and big-hearted Ninth Ward "community activist" get Section B? Granted, I'm not up on front page etiquette, but this sort of thing tends to stand out. Aren't they both innocent people known for helping others?

Over the past week or so, I've tried to temper my anger, by (unsuccessfully) convincing myself that the outcry against crime was not as much about the murder of an educated middle-class White woman as it was about...[hell, insert social ill of choice]. Maybe I should use my mental energy more wisely.

Since Katrina, there's been a lot of talk about facing our race problem and "talking about it," but I get the sense everyone's waiting for their invitation to a nice roundtable summit, one afternoon at the Convention Center, where we can engage in a dialogue about our feelings. That ain't gonna cut it. If we are serious about tackling this issue, and about not catching Shelly Midura off guard next time the council votes along racial lines, then we need to address these things as they happen.

But for the time being, I guess I'll just continue to watch in amusement at how long we can ignore the white elephant in the middle of the room (who will probably start shitting all over the new Berber carpet any minute now).

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Typical Louisiana leaders, always missing the goddamn point and trying to fix everything but our problems. Consider these examples I just happened to come across in the paper this week:

Chief Juvenile Court Judge David Bell, instead of locking up the state officials taking their sweet time to send money down here to hire the public defenders we need, jails one of the few people (a volunteer, no less) trying to keep the system going.

The state's ethics board forces a lowly St. Helena Parish employee to end her "contractual relationship" with Wal-Mart due to the conflict of interest. This single mother's problematic conflict of interest: she worked a part-time job at Wal-Mart. This was of course in light of the countless conflicts of interest the powerful throughout the state have:

And in keeping with the theme of this week's march, my favorite example of the stupidity of our leaders: Nagin and Riley want the cops to do checkpoints and they want us to -- well, to do everyfuckingthing else it seems, including stand in as substitutes for evidence. Seriously, if it's too hard for them to make sure evidence is being collected, they need to have easier jobs

  • A reporter who once covered criminal court for this newspaper told me she had sat through 11 murder trials in New Orleans before she observed the first one where prosecutors produced actual evidence. The first 11 cases, she explained, were based solely on eyewitness accounts.
  • a judge in Criminal District Court told me that in all his years on the bench, he'd only presided over one case where the investigating police officers had dusted the crime scene for fingerprints and presented such evidence in court
  • A colleague who served on a jury in a New Orleans murder trial remembers prosecutors trying to dampen potential jurors' expectations...If they required such evidence to convict the defendant, they needed to say so up front and they would be dismissed in favor of those who would demand less of the state.

I hope we don't forget the importance of holding our leaders accountable, a sentiment angrily expressed at the crime march last week. That means more than calling them out. It means kicking them out too, when necessary.

I am also, however, pissed at my neighbors who knew this shit was going on all along and never stepped up to the plate to call it to attention. That's the biggest problem with New Orleans. Barely anyone does shit about anything except bitch about it, and then has the nerve to point the finger at everyone else when the problem comes back around and bites them on the ass.

I'm afraid that the personal responsibility part of the message
in Thursday's rally, as much as we like to invoke that phrase when discussing what OTHERS should do about social problems, probably wasn't even grasped by most citizens. It doesn't take much to do one's part. Can you imagine what a difference it would make if just 1/10 of us just called our elected officials each day to tell them to get off their asses? I imagine alot more folks would have their Road Home money.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fuzzy Math?

OK, let me see if I got this straight. The LRA is giving $40 million to private schools to cover rebuilding costs...and the 188,251 households of N.O. get to split $116 million to rebuild? I can be a bit slow at times, but that seems a little lopsided.

Also, I wonder if the private schools have to submit rebuilding plans before they get this money.

And why is New Orleans only getting $116 million when there is over $445 million left to distribute? It still wouldn't be enough, but it'd be 4x as much as 116 mil.

Moreover, why are we getting $116 million to rebuild neighborhoods that are to last longer than our lifetime when ICF is get $750 million to fuck up for a year?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"WTF" Doesn't Even BEGIN To Suffice!

I was watching WDSU "6 On Your Side" tonight (Monday 1/8/07) when a popular local clinical therapist Cecile Tebo commented, and quite assertively so, that crime is not a mental health issue and that criminals are "just bad people." Furthermore, she made no effort to qualify this statement at all, which leads me to suspect that she believes strongly in what she said. Prior to saying this, she said that people don't just become criminals at age 29; it starts from a young age.

Does this mean then that our city is just plagued with several "bad" children for whom mental health treatment is irrelevant and on whom such treatment would be wasted? Regardless of her line of reasoning, as a clinical psychologist, I have NEVER been as shocked as I was tonight by anything a colleague has said -- publicly or privately. Not only is such a statement completely and utterly factually incorrect, it is, in my opinion, unethical. Such a view does not represent that of the vast majority of mental health professionals, especially when considering that DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing Conduct Disorder consist almost entirely of illegal or potentially illegal behaviors ("The primary diagnostic features of conduct disorder include aggression, theft, vandalism, violations of rules and/or lying...Conduct disorder has a multifactorial etiology that includes biologic, psychosocial and familial factors. The differential diagnosis of conduct disorder includes oppositional defiant disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorder and intermittent explosive disorder." American Family Physician, 4-15-2001).

Considering that Ms. Tebo is also the Crisis Coordinator for N.O.P.D., no wonder our leaders and authorities can't get a handle on crime. They don't even fucking understand it!

God help us, and help the young people watching tonight and their parents who were perhaps on the verge of seeking help, but who will now never turn to us, thinking that if licensed professionals say they or their children are "just bad people," then it must be true. Why even bother?