Monday, February 27, 2006

Mardi Gras 2006

Angus Lind explains Mardi Gras above. I think he may have it, for the first time ever. Of course, I already get it. But for everyone else...

Well, I, like many, had mixed feeling about Mardi Gras in New Olreans this year. On the one hand, there is not a lot of money in the local government to be sponsoring (I know it's funded mostly by local Krewes, but not the cops and cleanup - that comes from tax money, right?), and they risk the ire of the still dislocated. Of course, I sometimes consider myself dislocated and I definitely miss Mardi Gras, but we can't all have what we want all the time. I mean, I am one of those New Orleanians who thinks that Mardi Gras is the best holidays of the year. Better than Halloween, Christmas and New Year's. And it seemed to me that perhaps this year in particular Mardi Gras might be over the top for a region teetering on the verge of extinction.

On the other hand, Tim over at timsnamelessblog says it, "For those not in New Orleans or nearby, my deepest sympathy. For the first time in six months, we in New Orleans can feel sorry for you." Mardi Gras is like our soul. When we celebrate it as only we can, we find some reason to keep plugging away. A sense of relief, renewal, and rebirth arrives with Lent. Something deeply religious happens. As Dillyberto once told me, "Sometimes you have to derail the train." It's impossible to explain, but it is communal. And because we are celebrating in our way on our terms people are looking. And that's good for New Orleans. It's marketing at its finest. I listened with rapt attention on the way to work today as CNN interviewed Jack Stephens in St. Bernard and the mayor of Slidell. And they talked about the Convention Center. You can't buy that kind of itnterest. It happens because we are being who we are. So now the world has to pay attention to us again.

Foolhardy? Maybe. Worth every cent to keep the people happy and get us back in the national spotlight? Fo' sho'.

And on the NBC news it was announced that Brian Williams, one of the national media's biggest supporters of New Orleans, left when he found his sister died of breast cancer today. God Bless us, everyone.

And Happy Mardi Gras! I love it even when I am 1300 miles away. (PS - If you need help or know someone who needs help, let me know. I will be in town next week and have free time and free labor to offer.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dear Elected Officials


There are so many issues and too much talk. It is time to walk the walk.

Having been born and having grown up in New Orleans, this is a hugely important issue for me. It is easy to talk about the devastation, but you must go see it for yourself. It is undescribable, overwhelming, and depressing. To think that something like this could occur in the greatest and most powerful country in the world. And yet to this day, there are trailers sinking in a field in Arkansas. How could there be no help for some people 6 MONTHS AFTER THE STORM?

The people of Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the citizens of this country should be outraged not at the storm which caused the damage, but angry at the government which forestalls their recovery with rhetoric and talk instead of action and leadership.

Create a new floodplain map so people know what to do to return. Provide flood insurance to people's whose houses were destroyed by faulty levees and who agree to your damn floodplain maps. Build levees strong enough and good enough for the most powerful nation on earth so that this catastrophic disaster won't happen again. And give them some trailers to live in while they are fixing the mess that you helped create. (Clearly there needs to be a plan about what to do, but how about some relief!?)

So now stop f-ing around with downtrodden, flooded-out, beaten down people of the metro New Orleans area and the poor, homeless, downtrodden, almost forgotten people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Latin Teacher


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You get what you elect

I remember 6 years ago when George Bush was running for President that it was great that here was a guy who wasn't going to change his opinion according to pollsters like Bill Clinton had done. Now I see the error of my thinking. A man who is thinking changes his opinion and his position according to the facts and the situation. Accordingly, George Bush is not thinking. Not only is it stupid to have a company based in the United Arab Emirates running America's ports, it is dangerous. I don't think the people in Dubai are bad folks. In fact, Dillyberto and Mr. Clio both spent some time there when they were younger. However, I do question the intelligence of allowing a country through which funds were funneled for the 9/11 hijackers to be running our ports. And now GWB won't back down. You get what you elect. Especially if that person feels like he has a mandate from God.

Women Come Through (and Oprah, too)

According to CNN this afternoon, the Women of the Storm have come through. I didn't see who the people were who were talking since I was in my car, but what I heard sounded good. Some congressman was saying that it is unbelievable that the money is not making it. (I don't think it's that unbelievable. Bureaucracy is an inefficient system at best. The more stops the money makes, the less of it that gets to the problem. But, dear god, don't streamline anything in this time of need. That might make sense.) He vowed to look into the problems, but how much is he really going to do?

Right now on Oprah are several reports about trailers sitting empty on the MS Gulf Coast. Why can't the trailers just get where they need to go? I know that Tim's nameless said they have to have water and utilities, but Jesus, this is getting ridiculous.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

MR GO not a problem?

According to this report, MR GO did not have much of an impact on storm surge.
The Department of Natural Resources study started in March 2005 to examine the effect MRGO has in moving storm surge during a major hurricane.

For that study, URS Corp. of Baton Rouge did seven storm simulations using three hurricanes — a fast- moving storm, Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina. Each of the storms was run over the channel as it now exists and then the three storms were routed by computers over the location of the MRGO as if it were filled in with soil.

What the study found is that there was little difference in storm surge between the channel’s current configuration and if it were filled in to 1 foot above mean sea level.

Well, it sort of says that. Except the part at the end where it says that:
Although the URS Corp. report didn’t look at long-term effects of the channel on storm surge, it did acknowledge that erosion of the channel’s banks and the increased level of saltwater flow into northern marshes have had an effect.

The digging of the channel and the subsequent salt water it allowed into interior marshes added to the loss of coastal wetlands that separates developed communities of St. Bernard Parish and open water.
So let me get this straight. MR GO doesn't provide an expedited, straight avenue for storm surge. But it has destroyed wetlands which supposedly reduce storm surge. But MR GO itself has not contributed to storm surge. This seems to defy all logic.

Better tell the people in St. Bernard about this. I think they may have a different opinion.

Friday, February 17, 2006

We HAVE a plan

Seriously, what does that man in the White House do all day? Where does he get his information? What are his handlers doing with him? He's beginning to make me want to believe Michael Brown - maybe he did call and he is getting spun by W. It doesn't sound too farfetched now, does it? Or maybe he's just got a really bad case of CRS.

Thank you, Mr. Sabludowsky. I think you have it right.

I am concerned about the calls for secession, though I understand them.

NOTE: I am concerned because I think that we would end up with two states - The former Louisiana and the independent state of Metropolitan New Orleans. Of course, with the in-fighting in southeast Louisiana there could be a further secession into the West Bank Metropolitan state of New Orleans, the state of Grand Isle, the East Bank State of New Orleans and then the independent state of Plaquemines/St. Bernard and also North Florida (including the former St. Tamany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes). I guess our state would devolve into 5, 6 or more "independent" states. Any way you look at it, it has to be better than what is happening now. Because if we were an independent state, then we would get some aid from the US. And then we could join OPEC and really tighten the screws. This plan sounds better every minute....

Extended Visit to NOLA

In just a few short weeks, my school in New Jersey will be on a nice and deserved 2 week spring break. I will again be visiting New Orleans. I have a few people in line for some help (my mom, the woman I met in January, and Richard in Gentilly on Painters St.). If anyone else needs something or some free hands (and free labor!) for a few days, let me know. I will be coming down sometime the weekend of March 5th and leaving on the 18th or so. If you need anything in particular, let me know earlier than later and I will see if I can round something up at school... So many people still think about everything that has gone down in New Orleans and don't know what to do to help. If you need something, they may be able to provide what you may need.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Think Louisiana or Think, Louisiana

Most people forget (unfortunately me included) that Southwest Louisiana was hit by a massive hurricane, too. I have family out there. My dad grew up in Calcasieu Parish. I know that they don't have levee problems, bu they have their own set of issues. The issues that effect New Orleans and vicinty don't have the same solutions that the problems in SW Louisiana have. And for a long time now, New Orleans has made itself the end all be all of Louisiana. It is not. But it is an important part of the state. The legislators have made it clear that they don't support New Orleans. It could be from years of feeling like second-class citizens or racism or any number of inane and ignorant reasons. Nonetheless, a lot of people need something. The government as it currently is set up does not appear to be set up to address the needs of such a diverse state. Solutions need to be good for everyone in the state. Can it be done? Is there a way to make everyone happy? Whatever those guys in Baton Rouge are doing is delaying help to some of the hardest hit communities. I wonder if they have the same problems in Mississippi or Alabama.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Krewe du Vieux

And there you go.

Federal Ineptitude, Local Failure

In my mind, I get it. I don't know if I have the words to express it, but I will give it a try.

Local government failed. They did not plan properly for a storm like Katrina. In Jefferson Parish, the Doomsday Plan was enacted. The pump operators left as they were supposed to do. Did the publich know about this plan? Who knows? But they followed the plan even if it was a bad plan. Even though East Jefferson was flooded, it could have been much, much worse. In Orleans Parish, the effects of the storm were overwhelming. I wasn't there that day, so I don't know for certain. Watching the news in Jackson on August 29th, I remember thinking that we avoided another disaster. When the flyby of downtown showed the destruction, I kep thinking that things looked bad, but I had no idea. I do know that Nagin issued a voluntary evacuation on Saturday. I do know that he issued a mandatory evacuation on Sunday. He told people NOT to go do the Superdome unless they had no other choice. Once the storm hit, I don't know what the plan was. There is no question that the intensity and destruction of the storm were unpreventable. How could the city government know that the levees would fail? And was there a plan for what to do after that? There better be one or it better be in the works.

I read somewhere last week that some clown in Baton Rouge who was part of the state's Department of Transportation was supposed to come up with a plan to use buses to help people evacuate from New Orleans and other locations. He admitted that, though he was given the task in April, he had done NOTHING to address this new duty. When the school buses were flooded, was that his fault? Did the state activate its emergency plan? Can a state be expected to deal with such devastation. (Communications down + red-tape - leadership) x Katrina = Failure. For any state. In Mississippi, nearly every water management system IN JACKSON was down. Power was out. Phone lines and cell towers were down. But there wasn't standing water. There were fights in line to get ice. There was no gas. And that was 100+ miles from the storm greatest impact. Did that state fail its mission? Did Louisiana?

The federal government absolutely failed its mission. The ACE built shoddy levees. FEMA, despite its claims to the contrary, had its head up its ass. Why was Marty Bahamonde the only person in New Orleans? Because he couldn't get out. Once the storm passed, it was evident that things were bad. I never once got a sense of the urgency of the situation from anyone at the Federal level. Items were "prepositioned" whatever that means. Why were they not closer? What was there plan? React? I love the Michael Brown is now saying that he told the White House. He was in position to execute and didn't. George Bush may be an idiot, but what could he have done. Seriously.

Michael Brown :" W, we got a levee breach here."
W's intern: "We know. I will tell the President after he finishes his margarita."
MB: "This is bad. Put W on the phone."
W's intern: rustling, muffled "(untelligible) Brown in Baton (untelligible) c'est levee or some (unintelligible)."
W: "Brownie, hows the wife? (slurps)"
MB: "Sir, things are bad. A levee or two has failed."
W: "Well, of course they are. A hurricane has hit. I love hurricanes. Delicious drink."
MB: "Sir, the levees have failed and New Orleans is filling up."
W: "I fill up whenever I go down there. Bengays or whatever those donut thingies are. Love em."
MB: "Hey, those things are great. I think I am going to go get me some."


In New Orleans, there has to be a plan to get everyone out. One plan for the smart people who plan in advance and evacuate when a storm approaches. One plan for the dolts who stay and need to be taken out in boats. And, for God's sake, fix that damn train bridge at Metairie/City Park. That area is impassable when it rains hard (which is often in New Orleans). How many people couldn't get anywhere because of that? And communicate with neighboring parishes about your plans. A REGIONAL PLAN. Whoa. Get over your petty fights and act like your lives depend on it. They might. Why not go across the Crescent City Connection and head west Because Gretna police won't let you. Fix that problem.

The state needs to pass levee reform. Boasso has a plan. It may not fit everyone's current needs. It fixes some of the major problems. If the plan has to be modified to create a west bank levee board and an east bank levee board, do it. Do something. Clearly, things don't work now. Did Blanco drop the ball? Yes. Could any governor have done more?

The federal government definitely was more ready to stop terrorists. They failed . The levees were a lie and a joke. And now people are homeless and hopeless. They trusted you. You betrayed that trust. And now you spend time pointing fingers and demanding a city and state to do things your way. Why would they? They listed to you and you let them down. Enormously. You lied. And now you want to call the shots. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Why would we trust you? How could we trust you? You have done nothing for us, and now you are promising to do something if we play by your rules. Didn't we already play by your rules? And look where that got us. St. Bernard has it right. The attitude down that way seems to be, "Help someone else. We look out for ourselves. We don't want your rules, we don't want your money, we don't want your help. You screwed us. And now screw you." And who can blame them? Why isn't anyone else doing this?


FEMA blundered. The state faltered. New Orleans planned poorly. Check. Now what? As of right now, it seems New Orleans is dying. The State government is dropping the ball and it's politics as usual. And the feds are arguing about who is responsible. I have news for them. The levees broke, the storm was bad, water was everywhere. We all screwed up. We admit it. Now that that's settled, come help.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


WTF? Is the Gulf burping after so much oil and gas lost? Has a hole been left unplugged? Is Mother Nature continuing to be mad at New Orleans? What would Martin Luther Nagin say?

in other news

Mike Brown is still a dick.

Church gets it

While it might sound harsh, difficult, and cold, the Catholic Church in New Orleans gets it. Some parishes will close and may not come back. That's sucks, but it is the reality in the city. The archdiocese admitted to being caught without adequate insurance because those in charge believed that a few churches may experience flooding but that no one could have predicted the massive devastation caused by levee failure. So the church is shrinking for now. That makes sense. The one thing that I don't like is that the are closing St. Augustine in Treme. Maybe I am wrong, but that one church seems to be symbolic of a lot of other issues arising in New Orleans. Perhaps I don't know all the facts about its damag, but it would seem a very powerful statement to certain former and hopefully future residents to raise that particular place of worship from the ashes/mold/water.

To Maestri, Hughes, and my mom (who works for the Catholic Charities): Keep the Faith. It ain't over till YOU say it's over.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


The article above is about two New Orleans photographers who lived in the Lower Ninth ward. According to the article, two-thirds of their lives' work has been destroyed. I would love to see more of their work. It captures New Orleans.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A question

Dear Elected Officials in Washington, D.C.,

I have one question: Did the levees in New Orleans fail because of faulty design, negligence, or neglect?

That's what I thought.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What to Fix

I have been thinking about this for a few days now. New Orleans is hurting. It is in bad shape, and some of the bad shape has nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans needs to solve its own crime problems, education problems, etc. The Army Corps of Engineers failed our city due to a clerical error, it seems. Now we are expecting to be made whole by the government because, to some extent, the government is to blame for the enormity of the disaster caused by failed levees. So what do we really want from the feds? Top-notch levees. The elimination of MR GO. On-time FEMA help. Help restoring our wetlands (despite its uncertain role in storm surge absorption). Is that really too much to ask? The federal government has an obligation to protect its citizens, rich and poor, black and white and all colors in between, and those who live in the mountains and those who chose to live below sea level in a great river's delta.

Let's get on it, government. Fix the things that need fixing. New Orleans will be back one way or the other with or without help. A little help would be nice, though.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Quote of the Day

Today in our little paper (The Express-Times), there was an article about the EPA's alleged deliberate misleading of the environmental dangers after 9/11. Hillary Clinton, as much as I don't like her, said something that I think is appropos for the situation in New Orleans as well. She said, " Trying to persuade hte White House and this administration to act in the best interest of Americans is a lonely, almost impossible task."

Isn't it?

Friday, February 03, 2006

2nd Letter to Santorum

Senator Santorum,

President Bush has come out against the Baker Bill. For several reasons, I think this is a bad decision. One, the people of the state despite politics, race, or wealth agree that this plan makes the most sense, and it does. Over 200,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged in Metro New Orleans. While I think most people appreciate the $6 billion in "block grants" to help rebuild the city, According to my math, this provides each homeowner approximately $30,000 for his/her property. Could you rebuild your life for that much?

As you know, the Baker Bill will provide money to buy out homeowners at 60% of their pre-Katrina values. For a lot of the homes destroyed in the Lower 9th Ward, this is not a lot. While this might sound like a generous offer, would you like someone to buy you out for 60%? Of course, you would then be free to buy back into the system or move away, but you would lose your right to live in the neighborhood you called home, your entire life, and all your memories. Does that sound fair? It doesn't really sound fair, but the people of Louisiana have agreed to it because it's the best plan they have right now. At least they would get something. Right now, 5 months after Katrina, they have nothing (and some less than nothing if they are paying mortgages on property that is unusable and uninhabitable).

While there may appear to be a lot of corruption in Louisiana and in New Orleans, there are a lot of good people who are suffering. Suffering Let me ask you this question: If a natural disaster struck Pennsylvania, would you want your most unsrupulous citizens' sins held against you?

I have been to New Orleans as recently as last weekend, and things are bad still. There is still garbage everywhere, there are cars still under houses, and people have yet to come home (whatever home might be at this point). There are two kinds of people in New Orleans - those that have been flooded and have lost everything and are on the verge of losing hope, and those that were not flooded who fear for the future of their city, their jobs, and their friends and neighbors. Which group would you prefer to be a member of?

I would love to have a conversation about this.

Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another interesting email

This goes back to my dilemma about getting something and giving by visiting and my post about hiding the warts. But this group wants to come down and help (I got it from a Tulane Alum, so...). I wish I had the money, but I will be around in March. Keep up the good fight. One at a time, we will get through this.

GAO Report

I intend to print this and read and mark it. It sounds like someone has done some research, but I bet it gets worse before it gets better. And if someone would just admit they screwed up...

Seriously, WTF

I received yet another email from Sponsored by Harrah's. Is everyone down there ok? I am beginning to feel like we are more like the tsunami ravaged countries than part of the United States. Sweep the ugliness under the rug or run it to the edge of town, we got tourists coming, dammit! I know that used to be the way things were, but shouldn't people see New Orleans, warts and all? How else are they going to know they HAVE to help?


My neighbor here in Pennsylvania came down with me to New Orleans in October to help my mom get her house back together. That was nice of him. My mom, my brother (her contractor), and I really appreciated it because he could have stayed here and made money. Now he is thinking about going to New Orleans for JazzFest with me and my wife. He says he doesn't want to go to help with any physical labor, but he does want to help with his wallet. I don't know exactly how I feel about that, but I do know that people don't like to give without getting something in return. I guess something is better than nothing. Thanks, Kirk. You are a great friend and a better guy.