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.