Tuesday, December 26, 2006

And So This Is Christmas...

I keep hearing in my head the lyrics to that song "Happy Christmas (War is Over)":
So this is Christmas,
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun...

It's Christmas again, for the 2nd time post-K, and what have we done? It was hard putting myself into the Christmas spirit this year with the constant thoughts running through my head that things are not looking good down here, this long after the fact. Even though I was surrounded by family and loved ones, there weren't as many as usual because some of them don't live here anymore. Everyone who was there didn't seem to be in as festive a mood as in past gatherings. Maybe it was just my own perception, but a friend from New Orleans shared that her family gathering felt more subdued, perhaps even a bit depressing, too. After all, Baton Rouge just isn't home to them -- not yet anyway. Last Thanksgiving and Christmas was like this too, but that was to be expected less than 4 months after the fact.

I am certainly not ungrateful for the people and the things I still have and for this Christmas, which was still more than many people will ever have. Still, it's not MY Christmas, and I can't help but wonder how many more Christmases before Katrina doesn't dominate our conversations and our new lives, and when our "new lives" will just feel like regular ole everyday lives.

Hope, however, does spring eternal. Otherwise, why would we still be here? Fortuitously, for the first time since I can recall, I wasn't infuriated or completely disheartened by the news. There were actually developments to be hopeful about. The new Congress will FINALLY look into the fat no-bid disaster contracts that went to already wealthy companies well-connected to the White House. State legislators have wised up to the notion that they should question ICF's contract, and are finding some questionable allocations. Democrats and Repubs from LA and MS may actually unite to take on the insurance companies, now that they've even screwed Trent Lott. The Saints (need I say more?). Hell, who knows? Maybe Nagin will miraculously wake up mute next week!

Whatever the case, or however down I feel today (and I must keep emphasizing that this is how I feel today, right now), I have no choice but to keep going because at this point the alternative is an even less acceptable option. It's not like anyone promised any of us blissful holidays for eternity anyway, and who are we to demand such?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

ICF International Wouldn't Lie to Us, Would They?

Today's Times-Picayune featured an article on the slow progress of the Road Home Program stating: "In its proposal, ICF boasted that [it] would provide the kind of 'surge capacity' that would enable the company to quickly process applications and get relief to weary homeowners." However, "while more than 90,000 homeowners have applied for a Road Home grant in the past four months, as of last Thursday just 94 families had received money."

Michael Byrne, an ICF senior vice president and chief program executive defended the company, saying the state's demands changed after the job began:
"We had enough people for the model we built, based on what we thought we needed to be doing," Byrne said. "But the perception of what we needed to deliver changed." [Times-Picayune, December 24, 2006]

In that case, I think ICF should explain the discrepancy in the above statement with their June 30, 2006 Press Release:
"The Road Home housing registry already exceeds 90,000 applicants, with more than 30,000 additional applicants who have not yet registered but are expected to qualify."

Oh and this one one too, from October 19, 2006:
"The State estimates that nearly 123,000 residents are eligible for the rebuilding grant monies allocated for homeowners. In the second and third phases, we expect to double local hiring and team with an even greater number of local firms."

OH, annnnnnnd this one:
"We met or exceeded the deadlines established for the first phase of the Program and are pleased that we were able to accomplish our goals..." October 19, 2006

Not to nit pick, but that sounds a little different from the state's view of things:
"By not having enough advisers, ICF was unable to reach its goal of conducting 1,000 initial interviews per day by Oct. 31, Jones [state official and mayor of Franklin, LA for 23 years] said. That goal wasn't reached until Nov. 16, records show." T-P December 24, 2006

Louisiana Homeowners Give The Road Home Program High Marks

For a free trip to the Twilight Zone, click on the title above.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chimpy is "Disappointed"

Several Libyan nurses and doctors, whom most of the world thinks are innocent, will be executed for allegedly spreading HIV to 400+ children, and our White House is "disappointed."

What upsets me more than the White House's callousness is that I'm still shocked by it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where Are Our Priorities?

From a recent issue of Gambit Weekly:

Extra Patrols: $88K a Day
Feeling Secure: Priceless

"National Guard troops and Louisiana State Police have been patrolling New Orleans for almost six months now...How much is the deployment costing the state? Answer: $88,000 per day. The 300 Guard troops costs $78,000 a day; the 60 State Police troopers, at least $9,294 a day, according to figures compiled by the governor's press office..."

"...The price tag for the 300 Guard troops through Dec. 31 will be $13.5 million. 'That includes hotels and per diems,' says Blanco press secretary Marie Centanni."

"For the 60 state troopers, the total cost will be $1.9 million, a figure that includes overtime, meals and mileage but not lodging."

At $204.95 each, the Recovery School District would spend $61,485 per day for 300 Masters Level teachers. Arguably, that doesn't include benefits, and there are countless ways to spin the numbers.

But then I consider a more objective comparison:
Compared to the $28,470,000 we are apparently prepared to spend over the course of a year to protect ourselves (300 Guard Troops at $78,000 X 365 days), we spend $2,188,800 each year to educate 300 Orleans Parish public school students ($7,296 annually X 300 students).

Do guns, uniforms, and safety just cost 10 times as much as teachers, books, and modern school buildings? Or do we just value the former over the latter?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Just Mah Two Cents, Volume II

It's probably silly to label blog posts "Just Mah Two Cents," since the posts are all me putting in my two cents, more or less; but I like the title dammit. Today's two-cent contribution is this: I don't get all the apprehension people like State Treasurer John Kennedy are stirring up about LSU building a new $700 million+ medical complex to replace "Big Charity." [and why do they call it Big Charity? Is there a Little Charity?]. Kennedy even has Garland Robinette cowering in the corner with him.

It's an expensive project, no doubt, but the arguments against it ignore the advantages which, in my humble opinion, outweigh the cons. Charity is a shithole, and even if we could salvage it, why? The state could buy another building, but why? Why don't our citizens, poor or otherwise, deserve state of the art facilities allowing staff to provide the most technologically advanced care possible? If one of our city's biggest industries was medical care & research, what's wrong with creating a complex that will entice the best and brightest to come back? Research provides thousands of jobs and millions in revenue.

As someone who works in the field and interviewed at LSU/Charity, I can tell you firsthand that those are the things that push institutions above their competitors. My decision wasn't based on facilities, but even as a native who knew what a hellhole Charity was, I was MORTIFIED by the condition of a place where we expect people to go to get better. And the idea that rebuilding an LSU/Charity hospital means we go back to the same two-tier system we had before is ludicrous. The best hospitals are places where those with private and public insurance WANT to go for treatment; and a building has nothing to do with deciding on how health care will be paid for. Even if people on Medicaid have a "medical home," as is proposed, people still need to go to the hospital sometimes.

Lately our citizens' uncanny talent for choosing to not take bold, brave new steps that will likely benefit us, all the while choosing to take bold steps in the wrong direction(e.g., re-electing Jefferson) seems to be resurfacing. I hope we don't fuck this up too.

By the way, I decided to do my training in Chicago at a Top 10 ranked hospital.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More Nuggets of Wisdom from the "Food Critic"

I don't have much time to comment on this, but I think it pretty much speaks for itself. It's a volley of communication between me and the alleged GQ Magazine food critic and reportedly human, Alan Richman. JudyB and a few other bloggers, whom I apologize for not recalling at the moment, have also written about him. Fortunately, I have professional experience dealing with the severely mentally disturbed. Enjoy.

Date: Dec 4, 2006 5:52 PM
Subject: From a Real Live Lepre -- I mean, Creole!
To: thecritic@optonline.net

Dear Mr. Richman,

I figured you'd like to know that we Creoles do indeed exist! We even have a language and a cuisine and other cultural traditions that also still exist, just like the real Cajuns you seem so fond of. In fact, Creole French has been the native tongue of my relatives up to and including my grandparents' generation; and although born in America right outside of New Orleans, they did not speak English until they began their schooling. Such was the case for many Creole New Orleanians well into the 20th century. There is no way you spent as much time as you say you did here without coming into contact with the "mythical" Creole. We are very much a part of this culture, even though we don't walk around with C's on our foreheads so that visitors can easily identify us. (It's sort of like how Manhattanites can spot someone from the B&T culture far better than tourists can.) Also, you probably didn't see many of us with shovels because we were at work, school, or likely INSIDE fixing our homes since, well, we figure that re-installing walls and floors and whatnot takes precedence over gardening at this stage in the rebuilding game.

I won't waste anymore of my time with this, not because I'm afraid you'll liken me to "drunks screaming in a bar," as you have called some of my fellow New Orleanians, but because you are clearly the type of ignorant ass I prefer to not waste time on. However, before I say "au revoir" (did you know that Creoles say that too? I learned it from my grandmother long before I set foot in a French class), let me suggest that while you are sparking the national debate on New Orleans which you say "this country badly needs," that you also debate the existence of New York City, one of the most hurricane-vulnerable cities in the nation and likely to face a 20-foot storm surge during the next big storm to strike there.

So get your shovel ready,

Dr. E.J.
A Real Live Creole American
New Orleans, LA

On 12/10/06, thecritic@optonline.net thecritic@optonline.net wrote:
Dear Dr. EJ,

RE: "ignorant ass"

I'm reasonably certain you don't exist, but I'm absolutely certain you're fabricating your higher education.

Best ,


Date: Dec 10, 2006 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: From a Real Live Lepre -- I mean, Creole!
To: " thecritic@optonline.net"

Mr. Richman,

I would never make up credentials just to impress an ignorant ass.

-Dr. E.J.


From: thecritic@optonline.net < thecritic@optonline.net>
Date: Dec 11, 2006 2:18 PM
Subject: Re: From a Real Live Lepre -- I mean, Creole!
To: dr.ej

And you studder, too. Let me hear you say "ignorant ass" again. It's so cute.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Maybe Travelers' Insurance was right to limit their risk exposure by pulling out of the south Louisiana market. After all, they only netted $3.019 billion in net income from Jan. 2006 to Sept. 2006.

With all the storms last year, they were barely solvent, as 2005 brought in a mere $24.4 billion in revenue and left them with a paltry $113 billion in total assets.

Like they said on page 5 of their annual financial report, these disasters totally caught them off guard:
we believe it is the job of insurers to understand the changing weather cycles – which we have evaluated and assessed for years – and price risks accordingly.

Maybe I was being too hard on them in my previous post. At least they aren't retaliating against angry consumers for filing lawsuits based on this ludicrous notion that insurance companies are supposed to cover hurricane damage just because they paid increased premiums for living in hurricane prone areas. This is an honest industry after all, and there is no way they would engage in unethical behavior...
"we may incur loss and loss adjustment expenses as a result of disclosures by, and investigations of, companies for which we have written directors' and officers' insurance relating to possible accounting irregularities, corporate governance issues and stock option "backdating," "spring loading" and other stock option grant practices; the insurance industry, including us, is the subject of a number of investigations by state and federal authorities in the United States, and we cannot predict the outcome of these investigations or their impact on our business or financial results; our businesses are heavily regulated and changes in regulation may reduce our profitability and limit our growth;"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

And Now, A Heartfelt Message to Travelers Insurance Co.

(A letter I intended to just post, but I think I will really send it to the bastards.)

Dear St. Paul Travelers Cos., Inc.,

I understand that your company, the largest commercial insurance provider in the state of Louisiana, will cancel all commercial insurance policies in the New Orleans area, effective immediately. Your clarification that this will occur over the next 12 months via the non-renewal of current policies is: 1) no consolation; 2) the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig; and 3) a poor attempt to dress up ruthless corporate behavior (see #2). Furthermore, your spokeswoman's comment that this move does not affect residential customers is idiotic and just plain stupid even. For one, how will your residential policy holders afford homeowner's insurance if the companies they work for or own go out of business after not being able to rebuild? Second, I am sure that the homeowners who can will cancel their Travelers policies ASAP. Of course, this is probably what you want since it will save you the trouble of doing it yourselves, as such a shameful move cannot be far off.

The reasoning that you are limiting your risk exposure implies that: 1) you think we are idiots who, 2) don't understand that the whole purpose of the insurance industry is to profit from your customers' risk exposure. Let me explain, in case you missed that day of orientation. You see, you are supposed to take risks. We take the risk that we will need your coverage; and you take the risk that we will not. Sometimes the consumer wins; sometimes Travelers wins. By pulling out of this market, you are trying to ensure that you win every time, now that we have paid you handsomely with several years of increased premiums that you levied to mitigate your risk exposure.

Your risk analysts and risk assessments, I am sure, made you well aware of the chances of this market facing the disaster it did in August 2005. You knew of this risk from the day you began writing policies, and any claim to the contrary implies again that: 1) you think we are idiots who, 2) don't understand that the whole purpose of the insurance industry is to profit from your customers' risk exposure.

I am sure that none of this matters, but I just wanted you to understand why I wrote this letter in the first place, which was out of my desire to say: May others treat you as you have treated others, and may those responsible for this decision rot in the most horrendous realm of hell -- and if hell doesn't exist, may all of the business owners whom you are putting out of business and their unemployed workers use their newfound free time to build one especially for you. And THAT, is my heartfelt message to you.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Good Hands My Ass!

Who can spot the irony in this statement? (It's Friday, so I made it easy.)
"Allstate is a caring, compassionate company. For us, 'You’re in Good Hands ® with Allstate' is more than a company slogan; it’s a way of life."

Yeah, my initial response contained alot of expletives too. It's from their 2005 Corporate Social Responsibility report (damn, I couldn't even type that all out before I started laughing!), on how much $$$ they gave away in LA. I was drawn to the Allstate Foundation website while taking a gander at an Urban Institute report on rebuilding N.O.

Personally, I think Allstate's name should be removed from the report. How dare they? They'd be dropping more policyholders if it weren't for LA state law. As for that quote, it made me wonder: when does something cross the line from being ironic to being an outright lie?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What's the Rush?

I'm not even getting Road Home money, but I just about blew my top when I read this. If this ain't a way for another company to get money that could be going to actual rebuilding, I'll go St. Louis Cathedral for Mass Sunday dressed as the Pope -- in a cocktail dress.

From www.wwltv.com:
"Those waiting for money from the Louisiana Road Home program will have to wait a bit longer to get the actual cash as the group disbursing the funds is requiring that they be made to a bank or mortgage company, which will then dole it out in three payments as work is done on your home or when you purchase a new one.

The requirement that the money go to a mortgage company or a bank first, even extends to those who have already paid off their mortgages.

Susan Elkins of the State Office of Community Development says that negotiations are underway with a mortgage company that will disburse funds to people who have completely paid off their home loans."

Are these people fucking allergic to actually HELPING anyone?!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


This is from the good folks at the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. It reminded me -- and informed me of -- many things that we can give thanks for.

"Thanksgiving is coming and, well... life in New Orleans 15 months after Katrina is... still pretty darned hard.

So what shall we be thankful for?

It didn't take us long to realize what we are thankful for here at the Data Center -- all the people who care about New Orleans. All the people who have moved back and all the people who have come to help us rebuild. Those who came to our aid, and those who continue to support us from afar with their expertise and generosity. And all the New Orleanians who have decided this is our chance to make things better in our beloved city and are working diligently to make it so.

Here at the Data Center we are particularly grateful for our local partners at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) who have worked single-mindedly to create population and demographic estimates under almost impossible conditions. And we're grateful for VIALINK, Agenda for Children, the GNO Afterschool Partnership, and LPHI's Partnership for Access to Healthcare who have toiled to track changes in daycare centers, afterschool programs, hospitals, and clinics, so that we can all see where these essential services are still lacking.

And we're grateful to those at the Brookings Institution who have been monitoring monthly indicators of recovery through their Katrina Index -- from average wages to open bus routes. And to the Urban Institute and the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations for rounding up the research that experts have conducted here since the storm, to create an easy-to-use compilation of post-Katrina best practices and evidence in a single web site.

We are grateful to all of the Data Center's partners and contributors.* Their work is but one demonstration of the dedication that exists to the rebuilding of New Orleans... as well as an ability to work together locally that was unprecedented before the storm.

But the efforts of these researchers is almost insignificant compared to the total outpouring of support our city has received since the catastrophe. An extraordinary number of people and organizations from near and far have volunteered their time and efforts to the rebuilding of this great city. And when you look at the evidence, there's a whole lot there to be thankful for. Here are but a few examples:

  • 35,158 volunteers from the Corporation for National and Community Service (Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and VISTA) have contributed an estimated 1,624,335 hours in the Gulf Coast area
  • 575,555 individuals volunteered in Gulf Coast recovery efforts including 220,000 from the Red Cross alone
  • Hands On Network volunteers in the Gulf region have contributed 413,960 hours gutting homes, restoring parks, and volunteering in schools
  • And more people volunteer every day as evidenced by the increase in average daily searches for volunteer opportunities on Volunteer.gov from 572 pre-Katrina to more than 3000 post-Katrina

Oh, and let's not forget the $3,574,031,029 donated by individuals, foundations and corporations for post-Katrina relief and recovery as of February 2006. (This is more money than was donated after 9/11!)

Yes, there's a lot to be thankful for in 2006 post-Katrina New Orleans.

And... there's you. Thank you for joining the struggle to understand this incomprehensible post-Katrina situation. Thank you for desiring to understand our new world, so that we all, working together, can figure out how to productively move forward... and make New Orleans even better than it was before." -GNOCDC

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Blessed Are Those...

I liked this so I just wanted to share...

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.
– Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco

-by Wayne Muller

What inner resources do we have that would carry us through trials beyond belief and enable our generosity to shine through?

Having survived the inhumanity of the Holocaust and the death of her husband, Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, the revered elder of the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania, Miriam Elkes told her son, years later, of two objects that sustained her: "One was a piece of bread, which she always hid about her person; the other a broken piece of comb. She kept the bread in case someone needed it more than she; and no matter what, morning and night, she would comb her hair to affirm her person." What Miriam Elkes carried, and how she used what she carried, is a profound example of how the spirit can turn ordinary objects into living symbols that can help us live. For what she carried – the bit of bread and her broken comb – and why she carried them, speaks to the wisdom of love itself, and makes me ask: What small thing do we each carry that we can give to others more in need than we, and what constant gesture do we each carry by which we can affirm our person?

To carry these questions alone is life-sustaining. For to carry the smallest crust of bread or truth that we can offer others always reminds us of two essential facts: that we do not live this life alone, and that

no matter the severity of our own circumstances, we have something to give to others. The fact of this does not invalidate our pain, but affirms our worth, that even in pain we can be of value.

We all live somewhere between nothing and everything, and to re-enact, along the way; the smallest gesture of valuing your life is to carry out God's work. Only by affirming our person can the human stalk of spirit break ground and grow into something free.

Often, the unexpected ability to give, when there seems nothing left to draw from, is the sacred things that rescues us all.

~ Wayne Muller

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Define: "Last Resort"

University Hospital's administration had this idiotic comment to make regarding not re-opening the inpatient psych units, which they had at Charity pre-K:

"Beds for psychiatric patients would only be opened as a last resort, if the state's Office of Mental Health can find no other location." [-Chief Executive Dwayne Thomas, T-P 11/17/06]

The LSU/Charity system alone had 100+ adult inpatient beds. The city now has about 24 psych beds total for adults, adolescents, AND children -- 15 months after Katrina. Either Mr. Thomas and I have different definitions of "last resort," or he could use one of those beds himself while he recovers from delirium.

Second, why are they trying to push a population they cared for pre-K off on other people?

And I don't even have time to tackle their decision to also not re-open the Pediatrics department.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Interesting Little Game...if You're a Geek Like Me

I got this from the VatulBlog. Strange that this is the excerpt I found, given the past several days down here. No, I ain't startin' no mess; it really was the closest book to me.


1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.


"For all we know, racism may be eternal; it certainly seems so. But post-movement, white people's hearts are their own, and black people's lives their own to live. What good does it do blacks to leave race behind if they are still hated for the color of their skin? What they have to leave behind, though under guard, is racist whites."

The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners, by Debra J. Dickerson

Thursday, November 02, 2006

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

This is one of those days I feel discouraged and concerned, maybe a bit frightened about New Orleans. What bothers me most is that it's not because of an ineffective leader who can be easily replaced. It's the heart and soul of south Louisiana, the very neighbors I've never had a problem with.

Tonight I attended a Terrytown Civic Association meeting where our councilman Chris Roberts discussed an ordinance approved by the Jefferson Parish council to discourage the state from giving tax breaks to landlords renting to Section 8 individuals. Before he spoke, two folks from the Volunteers of America discussed early planning to build two 4-story buildings with 200 units total to house elderly and disabled people.

In a packed room of at least 100 people, I was the ONLY person voicing opposition to the effort to keep Section 8 people out of Gretna and Terrytown. Before I could finish my brief statements about the policy (that our efforts need to be geared more toward landlords and HUD enforcement of problems; most people with Sec. 8 vouchers are good, law abiding people; the success of mixed-income housing in other places when done right, etc.) I was shouted down by a crowd of people who were clearly fearful about something, based mostly on incorrect assumptions about "THEY" who live in subsidized housing and what some of the bigger root causes of poverty, crime, and blighted housing are. My goal is not to have things my way, but it seemed reasonable to question how is this divisive ordinance even going to resolve a problem.

It didn't bother me that they didn't agree with me. That's fine. What bothered me most is: 1) the complete lack of willingness to even hear alternate views or about initiatives that have been successful elsewhere; 2) a complete lack of civic responsibility for anyone who does not own a home in our neighborhood; and 3) the entrenched resistance to change and not an unwillingness to confront the core causes of blighted housing and crime -- but AN INABILITY to do so.

The Wet Bank Guide wrote a post a few weeks ago in which he rightfully asked for an apology for the Baton Rouge Advocate's portrayal of New Orleanians and our "dysfunctional civic culture."

I don't remember what the Advocate's story said but after tonight, I have to, in all honesty agree, that our dysfunctional culture is probably our number 1 obstacle to accomplishing much of anything, let alone the biggest rebuilding effort ever. Our collective dysfunctional attitude toward anything that is even the slightest bit unfamiliar or new is quite frankly pathological. I just moved back 3 months ago after being gone for 12 years, and tonight I was reminded of how we are most accountable, not for Katrina, but for the inability to be progressive or at least thoughtful about such civic issues. Those same weaknesses we had pre-K are playing a big part in recovery post-K. Quite frankly, if I were a Congressman watching that meeting, I'd go back to Washington not giving two shits about giving any sort of money for recovery or oil revenues to "those people down there in Louisiana."

I heard people talk about how devestating the storm was for them, and how the healthcare system is barely functional, and how hard life is -- but in the same breath ask "where are 'these' people going to be coming from" as if they didn't know there are still about 500,000 people in the region who can't come home yet. When I said many of us ourselves will need supportive housing as elderly persons, a woman said "not us, we wouldn't qualify," as if the lesson of Katrina that no one is guaranteed anything was completely lost on her and those agreeing with her.

This irrational fear and xenophobia that does and at the same time doesn't stem from race issues is alarming to me. The obvious racial element to this issue would be a different post by itself, because it is there whether or not people recognize it. Frankly, I expect the race thing to always be here to deal with as long as I'm alive and it would have been much easier to deal with that, but the general paranoia, misinformation, assumptions, xenophobia, and plain old stubborness of my very neighbors in a neighborhood I love and still do is a bigger beast for me to fight.

I'm discouraged; I'm concerned; but now I'm even more resolved to the fact that it will take a new guard to really make things in this city happen. The old guard didn't help us much before K, so they sure can't help us now because they are as irrational as their constituents. I think that if this region is going to make a comeback, and comeback stronger, it can only be done with radical change that will quite frankly alienate alot of people -- at least until those changes lead to improved quality of life for them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Help -- Am I Imagining This?

Gov. Blanco wants to refund $192 million to homeowners in LA, all of whom paid a 15% surcharge on their insurance bills in order to help bail out the state Citizens' insurance plan or whatever they call it. The state is also trying to figure out how to keep the program solvent, seeing as how it's needed since the cold-hearted scum-of-the-earth, greedy, spineless big insurance companies have bailed out on us. Per Blanco and State Treasurer Kennedy, we need about $1 billion to keep the insurance program afloat until about 2016 or so. Kennedy said on Garland's show yesterday, if I heard correctly, that if we don't find the $1 billion dollars, homeowners will have to pay a 3.5% surcharge on their insurance next year, and the surcharge will go up 7% each year after that for the next 19 years.

Did anyone else hear this or is it just me? Because if it's true, why the hell would she use nearly $200 million from a projected surplus to refund us instead of using it towards the one billion dollars the State needs to keep the program afloat?

Surely, it has nothing to do with her being up for re-election next year. Can someone tell me I'm imagining this?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Just Mah Two Cents

Maybe this will be a new segment: Just Mah Two Cents!

I'd like others' 2 cents on this too. A story in the T-P today about mixed-income housing brought this topic to mind. Folks should be pissed off that public housing hasn't reopened so they can come home; and HANO should have handled that much better. The apprehension and the skepticism towards promises is well-placed because promises to the poor and Black Americans have typically not been honored. People are afraid of losing their communities, their local support network, the familiarity. G Bitch wrote an excellent post about this and other public housing issues.

But I scratch my head when some folks oppose tearing down the projects to build mixed-income housing. Concentrated poverty, based on my opinion and observations, just doesn't seem to be a good idea. I think there is something beneficial for kids who grow up around professionals, college educated folks, etc. Those are the folks with connections to the scholarships, programs, internships that people need to succeed nowadays in many fields. Think of how many jobs you've found out about from a friend or colleague or from being in a certain organization. The more people that own homes around you, the more people there are who are invested in that neighborhood at a different level than people who rent; so there is more incentive to make sure that there are services, that street lights get fixed, that trash is picked up,etc..

There are a few experimental studies* that show that kids who moved to better neighborhoods did better in school, were more likely to go to college and less likely to be arrested than the kids in the control groups. There's also data to suggest that families who do move to "better" neighborhoods, Black families in particular, face a new set of problems like separation from support network, transportation issues, or social isolation because of race.

So i know there's no easy answer. This is a big issue and I can't put down all my thoughts about it today; but for me the bottomline is that we can't go back to the way housing was if the residents are going to have the same lack of resources and decent schools, and if their neighborhood is more neglected by the powers that be than other neighborhoods. Whatever the cause of crime or poverty or whatnot, I just haven't seen where big public housing developments have turned out to be a resounding success.

Should public housing residents be worried? Hells yes. But instead of opposing it all together, I think they should sit down with HANO and the developers and find ways to make this new way work and make sure the promises are kept. No matter how you look at it, most if not all of the old public housing units are old and shitty and need to be renewed anyway. I think there's much more for everybody to gain from cooperation in forging a better system than from having an all-or-nothing / don't-change-anything or tear-it-all down position.

So what's y'alls two cents?

*references on quasi-experimental or experimental neighborhood studies (Journal/Book is in CAPS):
  • Briggs (1997) "Moving up versus moving out: Neighborhood effects in policy mobility programs." HOUSING POLICY DEBATE, Vol. 8, pp. 195-234.
  • Rosenbaum, Kulieke, & Rubinowitz (1988). URBAN REVIEW, vol. 20, 28-41.
I can try to point people to more if you're like REAL psyched about reading this stuff. LOL

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We Still Got It

As I begin this, I haven't titled this yet, and I don't know what the title will be. Don't even have anything to say in particular, but I feel compelled to say something about the unbelievable day New Orleans has had. It was only in the last 36 hours that I realized what all the fuss about tonight's re-opening of the Dome and the Saints being back was about. But seeing how jazzed up and happy it made everybody just felt really good.

Having just moved back 2 months ago after being gone 12 years, I forgot what being in the middle of Saints territory was like. The love for the team, the hope -- the hate for the team at times. Tonight, though, was different. People here NEEDED what happened tonight. Being back here, I have felt a collective sense of depression in people, a desperate need to hang onto our city and our culture. But all day today, the mood was what it used to be -- happy and lighthearted. People were actually smiling! They were back to doing that pre-K joie de vivre, que sera sera thing we've been so good at doing even while the city was falling to shit.

I know everyone wasn't thrilled. I know that spending $185 million on the Dome seems almost sacreligious when so many still don't have homes or even decent water pressure. But having just gotten through a tough one-year anniversary and the even tougher year before that anniversary, it seemed that people here were just tired. Some have given up. Tonight was our shot of Prozac. It was our chance to show the world that we're here. With the blown out windows of a luxury hotel and a once gleaming skyscraper right next to the Dome, we're here.

The outcome and what happened from the first to the last minute of the game was perfect. We hung our hopes on a team that, quite frankly, we're used to being disappointed by. That's why the win tonight was so huge. We counted on a team that has never delivered when we most needed them to. Until tonight. And who else but a New Orleanian would rely on such a thing? It's like the seemingly insane attachment we have to this place that outsiders don't get that keeps us here flood after flood after hurricane after shooting after scandal after flood. The hope we've had for our Saints reflects the hope we have for this region that no matter how bad it gets, when it's all said and done, the good times, the better life, the better schools and safer homes will be worth all the hell and disappointment it takes getting there.

Tonight was a reminder of the good times we can have again -- the life we're working to get back -- and it's exactly the boost our collective psyche needed in order to get us out of bed tomorrow and face another day of insurmountable challenges that, as tonight showed us, we have every reason to keep hoping we will ultimately surmount. It was almost like we needed tonight to prove to ourselves that we can still live it up like no one else, that we can laugh while we cry, that we can secondline and dance on the way back from putting someone in the ground, that we are still south Louisiana and we are still New Orleans.

And you know what? We still got it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Yo, El Diario, Kiss My Gumbo-Eatin, Two-Step Dancin, Seafood-Lovin', Where Y'at, How's Ya Mama 'Nem, New Orleans Ass

Dear El Diario,
I got nothing against New York City. In fact, I used to live there and love the place. Besides N.O. it's the only other place I'd live. LOVE LOVE LOVE NYC! So what's with the hate in the editorial today? If you couldn't tell from the title, you guys printed a few things I take issue with.

Yup, we had alot of money ALLOCATED to us that hasn't gotten down to most folks yet. So if some of us seem a little stuck, that's one reason why. Also, the insurance companies fucked us. And now FEMA continues to fuck us, as our Pulitzer award-winning newspaper just wrote an editorial about.

The other thing I took issue with was the comment about some of us "waiting for the gravy train to end." As most people who insinuate we're getting too much money, I'm guessing you haven't been here to see the place for yourself. Again, the gravy train hasn't quite gotten here yet -- probably because it's stuck in NYC:
You said it's "crazy" to spend so much tax payer money to fix things that never should have been there (i.e., below sea level) anyway. Seems equally crazy that we should pay for your transportation system and your Medicaid patients.

Oh yeah, another thing -- you assholes are in the same boat.
And the Corps of Engineers did the study for this? Let me warn ya, cuz I still LOVE NYC, y'alls asses is in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

America -- Nobody Shucks and Jives Around the Race Thing Better Than Us!

When are people going to get real about the immigration "debate" and admit it mostly boils down to race? If it doesn't, then why aren't Montana folks following the lead of those living on the border in New Mexico and trying to catch Canadians sneaking over? Because Canadians don't sneak over? Why not? Ohh, cuz we let them right in. And I mean, come on, alot of them stay. Truth be told, I think I've met more Canadians than Mexicans. Not only do they stay, they're more likely than Mexicans to work in coveted middle-class/professional jobs, jobs Americans want far more than say... picking grapes in California.

MONEY. OK, other than race, it boils down to money. U.S. openness to immigrants has always been directly tied to the need for labor. When did a lot of Asians get let in? When they needed 'em out West to build railroads. When did Europeans pour in? Could be wrong, but wasn't it during a period of rapid industrialization when factories needed workers and New Orleans needed poor Irish folks to dig canals? The whole premise of the slave trade was for cheap labor, and labor don't get no cheaper than free.

Mexicans wouldn't come if no one hired them. I think word would get back pretty quickly if most returned home in a few weeks because they couldn't find work. It's really a sick, hateful game we're playing with them. Demonizing them while we use them for profit.

I don't recall this being such a huge deal back during the booming mid-late 1990s. Weren't our borders more porous then, before 9/11, when it was even easier for Mexicans to sneak in? Why is the immigration thing getting so hot now? Because now that we're in an economic downturn and even White people are feeling the crunch, jobs have become more sacred; and people have become more anxious about losing their jobs.

In fact, they ARE losing their jobs -- to outsourcing and shrinking profits; and let me tell you, nothing gets a politician's attention like White folks gettin' laid off; and the politicians have to blame somebody for White folks having to suffer the indignity of collecting unemployment since they sure as hell won't blame the big corporations who fund their campaigns.

And it's not like Mexicans popped up out of nowhere. We did take/win/whatever their land, and we've been trying to nudge them out ever since. If we were 2nd graders this would have been solved already. The Mexicans would have said: "we were here first." And we would've taken our shit and gone to play in someone else's yard.

But seriously, why can't -- why WON'T -- Americans honestly talk about these things?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Don't Listen to Me!

OK. In my previous post when I said local merchants should play the big money game so they can get them some big FEMA contracts...I was kidding. I didn't mean for y'all to go and do it -- like these suspects did.

Judge overturns fine against trailer dealer

By James Varney
Staff writer, Le Times-Pic
"A state judge in Baton Rouge has determined that Bourget’s — the politically connected custom motorcycle shop that has sold almost $120 million of trailers to FEMA — does not have to pay a fine for selling travel trailers without a license, according to attorneys who have read the judge’s unsigned ruling. The decision also appears to let Bourget’s off the hook for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in Louisiana sales tax, the attorneys said."

Why waste time going after these guys when we could keep stickin' it to those Blac -- I mean those people who used their $2000 FEMA voucher on foolishness?

Big Fat FEMA Contracts to Big Fat National Companies Waste Big Fat Money

Vitter says nearly half of debris clearing cost was wasted

By Jenny Hurwitz
St. Tammany bureau, The Times-Picayune

"The Army Corps of Engineers will have spent $2.4 billion clearing the staggering mounds of hurricane debris left behind by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by the year’s end. But taxpayers could have saved $1.1 billion of that amount — an estimated 45 percent — if they had gone through local channels instead of federal ones, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said Friday."

it fraud to waste money like this, or just a by-product of big bureaucracy? Granted, smaller local companies couldn't tackle debris removal from this disaster without outside help, but it sounds like local folks could have handled a bigger piece of the pie. But see, that's the problem with ignorant Louisianians -- if they wanted big government money, they should have been giving alot more $ to the GOP!
No wonder our state's schools are so bad; too much focus on shaping ethical behavior!

And what the hell does the Corps mean by this?
The corps requested that Vitter not disclose individual contract prices, which they contend could drive down competition. "
hey y'all!! Be quiet! Public information is now SECRET!!!! shhhhh!!!!

And one last quote from the article:

"Officials from the corps would not comment, deferring inquiries to Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing debris removal. Officials from FEMA were unavailable for comment Friday evening.""

Get the F*** Outta here!! You mean they couldn't find nobody from FEMA? How unlike them! I hope they're OK...OK, now I'm worried.

Seriously, though, props to Vitter for bringing this to light.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Let's Go Crazy, Let's Get NUTS!!

Aaaaaand apparently we all will, because the people the feds ARE PAYING to reimburse centers for mental health costs could really give 2 shits about us. Some local providers, the few we have, have been treating Medicaid patients for free for several months because they can't get certified for reimbursement by the jesters WE ARE PAYING to do so. This quote is from Tony Salters, spokesman for the Texas regional office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that must inspect facilities before Medicaid can reimburse them:

“If we are in the particular area, we will try to get to them with the personnel we have.”

What? ummm, excuse me? IF you're in the area? IF, MUTHAFUCKA?! Seriously, NOBODY from the Texas office can get their ass in a car and fuckin spend the equivalent of a workday to drive over here to do a fucking shitty ass inspection???? He basically just told us " uhhh, yeah, 'k whatever -- when I get to it." But he didn't stop there.

Also from today's T-P (by
Salters, the CMS spokesman in Dallas, said that even if Southern is approved, it won’t get reimbursed for the money it already has spent treating Medicare patients. He expressed little sympathy for the plight of the facility. Salters said the company’s owners accepted a risk when they began treating patients that the federal government might not pay for or that payment would be delayed.

“It was a total business decision,” Salters said. “If this is his only line of business, this was his decision when he stepped out there.”

Oh my God. Where do I even fucking start? I know. I'll start by callin' his ass. Please join me if you are moved so:

HHS Employee Details
First name
Middle name
Duty station
Dallas TX
Mail stop
Internet e-mail

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ohhhh, Alberto!

Oh look, Albie! Here's some FEMA fraud you can prosecute!

It's been about a month since CorpWatch released their report on disaster area profiteering. So, Albie, the good American taxpaying folks down here, scraping by financially since we haven't seen that post-disaster economic boon we been promised, were just wondering what progress the good ole U.S. of A. Attorney General's office has been making in cracking down on THESE fraudulent disaster claims.

The Army Corps, Bechtel and Halliburton are using the very same "contract vehicles" in the Gulf Coast as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" open-ended "contingency" contracts that are being abused by the contractors on the Gulf Coast to squeeze out local companies. These are also "cost-plus" contracts that allow them to collect a profit on everything they spend, which is an incentive to overspend.

Hmmm...I wonder where that economic boon is?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Public Health and Safety Dilemma

"We should support the President [of the U.S.A.] no matter what."
-caller on CSPAN show, 09/06/2006
Today's Common Sense? Poll Question:
Should people this stupid be allowed to run around free in society?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Mom Would Eat the Last of the Beef Stew

This evening, I had one of those funny yet macabre experiences that people in hurricane zones have sometimes. My parents were never big on storm preparation or planning of any sort while I was growing up. My mother, in fact, was known for sleeping through the tropical storms, wimpy hurricanes, and near catastrophic storms we've had over the years. I remember one from the late 80s (Hurricane Florence?) when she was quite irritated when dad and I woke her to inform her our subdivision was flooding. I could be upset with them for shirking that offspring preservation reflex, while I was young and vulnerable, that makes other parents evacuate far before landfall; but I'm not about to get disowned before the next catastrophe because they are now ready for pretty much anything short of total nuclear annihilation.

These days, my parents, apparently having succombed to Posttraumatic Katrina Disorder, have stocked our garage with cases of water and self-heating beans and franks. Furthermore, their axe remains permanently in the attic. So naturally, their home (where I'm currently living anyway) will be my most likely refuge if I remain here for any reason during the next storm.

While taking out the trash tonight, I noticed a shelf of canned MREs I hadn't seen before. [Post-K, my parents returned way before most people, and having no TV, malls, or grocery stores, they picked up the hobby of hoarding the MREs (meals ready to eat) being given out by the national guard and Salvation Army or whomever. ] I went back in, jokingly held up the can of self-heating beef stew and said, "Is THIS what I'm gonna have to eat in my last days?" The funny, macabre thing I first referred to is my mom's response: "If you get to it before I do."

And that's why you gotta love Louisianians. For one, we have learned that in a post-disaster fight for self preservation that our own mothers may very well eat the last of the carcinogenic self heating beans and franks. So we know that we must forage for food before it's too late, and we won't go into shock from learning we must fight our mothers for food at a time when he have to be our strongest. Second, we can laugh about that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

National Media Response to Katrina Ain't So Stellar Neither

Today is August 29, 2006, the 1 year anniversary (sounds weird) -- one year since Katrina ripped the first 29 years of my life apart. That's probably a bit melodramatic given that I lost little compared to many around here, but that's how bad even my pithy losses feel.

It's also my first ever time blogging. I didn't even want to do this crap (probably another stupid fad); but lately I've had WAYYYY too much to get off my chest. Maybe this will help. Like so many of us around here, I can't hold my tongue any longer.

Most of what I hear in the national "news" media about New Orleans is so negative. I expected, at least today, to see more about the lives lost, the grief -- and the hope. Yet today, our national "news" media would rather focus on when and who called for evacuation, on neighborhoods not rebuilt, and on showing different versions of "Will That Swampy Little Shithole of a Town Survive?"

Why is any sort of negative depiction of 9/11 victims disrespectful; but idiots go unchecked when they call the people who died here "stupid for living in a bowl"? Were 9/11 victims stupid for flying? Ignorant and dumb for working on the 91st floor? The 9/11 victims' daily decisions involved risk too, just like...ohhh I don't know...everything, including living in most of our major cities.

We are asked: "Didn't you know this would happen? I mean, you've had floods and hurricanes before. " I wonder if I could get away with: "Well, they should have known it was unsafe to work way up there. After all, it was bombed before."

I didn't hear a guest on Fox News reprimanded for or even called on his comment that people must take "personal responsibility" for where they live. I wonder if he questioned Trade Tower victims' personal responsibility about choosing to work in the Twin Towers? Nagin wasn't putting down NYC with his "hole in the ground" thing. He was probably just fucking irritated from the lack of respect and biased coverage we have received.

By the way, did anyone ever wonder what the wealthy widows and orphans of 9/11 victims did with the money they got from the Victims' Compensation Fund, in addition to the life insurance and investment funds they had? Gosh, how insensitive it would have been to even suggest they frivolously spent tens and hundreds of thousands of federal dollars like those Katrina victims who blew their $2000.

Why are our first responders, who worked days without sleep or food or outside help, seemingly less worthy of recognition than NYC's first responders who could take breaks and go home each day to their families? Thankfully, they had homes to go back to.

Today, while local media broadcast live an interfaith service (THANKS, Y'ALL!) to honor the first responders and to Bless our dead -- living and deceased -- this was being broadcast simultaneously on the big "news" networks:

  • a FoxNews correspondent, broadcasting IN FRONT OF THE DOORS OF THE CONVENTION CENTER WHERE and WHILE THE SERVICE WAS BEING HELD, did a cutesy li'l 45 second piece about the horrors that took place there after Katrina and how much money was spent to restore it. And for those who think we're squandering a big fat $110 billion dollar welfare check down here, see this post from 8/24/06: http://dapoblog.blogspot.com/
  • MSNBC was still a' beatin that dead horse of a story about that freak who, it turns out, couldn't even be indicted for killing Jon Benet.
  • After a heartwarming look back at the carnage of the Conv Ctr, FoxNews went back to the studio audience show which opened with: "It's been a year since Katrina. Have we decided who's to blame"? I'm not making this shit up. If they weren't so enthralled in making us look pathetic, they would have known that we pretty much figured that shit out...ohhh...3 months ago as is outlined in some excruciatingly detailed big ass federal reports ('cept for the evidence the White House wouldn't release but it was already obvious how they fucked up):
http://www.levees.org and http://www.ce.berkeley.edu/~new_orleans/

and don't forget about http://www.gpoacess.gov/congress/index.html

  • As Nagin and Blanco were trying to comfort and give hope to a city and state on the edge of a collective nervous breakdown, CNN was asking where was the $110 Billion dollars. [I already told you where: http://dapoblog.blogspot.com/ ] To their credit, they did say that only $41 billion had been given out so far and that $17billion was used to pay flood insurance claims (i.e., Fuzzy Math) and alot of it went to fill immediate post-storm needs.
  • And then CNN switched to feed of the Colorado governor saying the Boulder D.A. was an idiot for bringing that freak all the way back from Thailand for nothing. Glad America didn't miss that vital piece of redundant info.
  • And finally, as our ravaged, depressed, somber -- but HOPEFUL and RESILIENT -- city prayed for those lost, Fox rounded out that chunk of airtime talking about the "pets of the storm." Nothin' against pets, but I think those little fuckers got more mention than the elderly here who drowned in their 110 degree attics or in a chair they couldn't get out of a year ago today.

Before you start raving about evacuation and levees, since you are all apparently better hurricane experts now than the millions of us whose families have lived here for hundreds of years, I will address the evacuation thing in the near future. Perhaps even today if I finish picking up the broken glass from my TV. But it's America, so you'll probably exercise your right to free speech anyway, as usual, without knowing all the facts.

I'm not a raving anti-media nutcase. National media have done excellent, and ocassionally even accurate, stories about us. Even more, many have personally helped us and cried with us. Likewise, I know many Americans don't think we're stupid for living in a bowl. I just think that OVERALL stories are being made to fit this mold of us as a raggedy incompetent city that's done little if anything right pre- or post-K. Why else would they spend less time criticizing politicians responding to a contained manmade catastrophe than they spend criticizing politicians dealing with a widespread disaster that was at its core an uncontrollable natural phenomenon? While obsessing Monday-morning-quarterback style about others' responses to Katrina, they need to check themselves regarding theirs.

And that's all I got to say.