Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Past, Present, and Future

I know I moved going on 6 years ago. I know. (The job market for Latin teachers in New Orleans is not so surprisingly minimal - not to mention that teachers in New Orleans don't make nearly what they deserve, are worth, and need to survive. But I am reaching an age where I need a job or career that pays the bills when my wife and I decide to have a family. I want to move home. I can't imagine having children who do not know what a real parade is, what it means to shake your butt or tap your foot you feel when you hear good music, who cannot describe the taste and smells of a crawfish boil on Good Friday. I always thought, and I still do, that growing up in New Orleans makes a person sophisticated and worldly just because you grew up in New Orleans. You can get some of the experiences elsewhere, but not all in one place like you can in NOLA.

So, while I haven't been making a priority since I have already signed my contract for the upcoming school year (after a great deal of internal debate, mind you), I was thinking about the future. My contacts in New Orleans tell me that there is not much in the way of employment. Understandable. Every time I read something about Tulane or Loyola, they are downsizing their staff, faculty, and programs. Understandable. Economic depression after the massive tragedy of Katrina and Corps of Engineers is expected, but it is sad.

But I hope that in another year things will turn around because I want to move home. I want to go eat dinner at a friends house, go to Greek Fest, run in the Crescent City Classic, visit the Audubon Zoo, have lunch at Parran's, eat a dozen raw oysters, have a great cocktail, enjoy an ice cold Abita Amber, and play golf all year round. I want my kids to know what it's like to eat light-as-air French bread, have a shrimp and oyster po-boy, ride their brand new bikes on Christmas morning (in shorts!), watch a sunset on Lake Pontchartrain, and cheer for their hometown Saints. I don't think I could handle raising children any other way.

I know I have some work to do to convince my wife to move, and it may be even harder to find myself a job. I think I have to. I think its important for me and my family and my children to have the experiences you can only get in New Orleans. The harder we have to work for it, the more valuable and rewarding it will be. How can you raise a family any other way?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Your Enemy's Enemy Is Not Necessarily Your Friend (Bumbling Towards Glory)

I have read with interest as many blogs as possible about what happens in NOLA. I read them obsessively every day. I wander, I read, I click, I read, I think, I try to write (albeit poorly most times) about what I think. I do not think I have wonderful, thought-provoking, interesting things to say. But I do have something to say sometimes.

After Katrina, there is no doubt that George W. Bush bumbled. He has bumbled in Iraq, he bumbled through 9-11 (Giuliani was the key to the recovery in New York), he has bumbled through most everything he has done in his life (National Guard, Texas Rangers, etc.). And the Republican leadership in Congress has been lead astray by their "leader."

However, just because the Republicans are blindly following the bumbler and are leaving New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast to fend for themselves does not mean that Democrats would be doing any better. John Kerry has visited New Orleans three (3!) times and thinks rightly that the situation in New Orleans is deplorable. Is it simply rhetoric? I don't know. Would things here be different if Kerry was president? What if it was Al Gore? I think George Bush has said similar things and tried to say he would make things better. But from him we know it's simply rhetoric. I am tired of people "speaking" about the conditions in my home town. I am tired of photo opportunities. I want someone to DO SOMETHING. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is or has given $100,000,000.00 USD. Stop the talk, Washington politicians. Stop the inane banter. We are tired of hearing it. DO SOMETHING ALREADY.

Is there a point? Yes. Bush is an idiot. He is a politician. Politicians are idiots. They tend to look like they care and want to do something for you. Do they really? Not on either side of the political fence. We need a new party, a new system, and new leadership - people that care, people that do, and people that can. How about we call the new party Sinn Fein?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Business as Usual wil not be tolerated (link)

I was guided to the article in the title link by bayoustjohndavid over at Moldy City.

In the article which was written back in May, there were some questions about finance, ethics, and the election for mayor. I don't really know if much more than this was ever reported or if there was any follow up. I posed these questions to Mr. Russell to find out. I will let you know the results if I get them. The appearance of impropriety is strong. Hope it turns out to be a misperception.

Dear Mr. Russell,

I have read this article (http://www.nola.com/frontpage/t-p/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1147502805143670.xml) on two separate occasions. There are some questions that you posed to which no response was given.

1) What was the amount of the contract that MCCI received out of the 24 million?
2) You mention that MCCI billed for $90 - $106 per hour. Is that a normal rate to "visually assess damages"? What is the normal rate? (I am a teacher. If this is the case, I think I may need to switch professions because a) that job seems pretty easy and b) it pays a whole lot more than I get.)
3) Was the record keeping issue ever resolved and did MCCI receive the money that they requested?
4) How does someone whose term expired continue to serve on the Sewerage and Water Board? I thought that was the point of terms. Are there other individuals on the Sewerage and Water Board that are serving past their terms? How many and who?
5) Was there any clarification as to how two people who claim to not be doing business together can list the same address on their contributions?
6) Were the checks eventually located? Did this turn out to be faulty record-keeping or was it accurate?
7) Did you ever find out who "B. Edwards" is? Did you call and ask to speak to him or her? Does anyone at MCCI know who this is?
8) What happened when Edwards contacted the State Ethics Commission?

This whole series of incidents seem very suspicious, more than slightly unethical (and in some cases illegal), and like business as usual in New Orleans. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and I hope that you continue to report on this story and others like it. The good people of New Orleans should not stand for business as usual.


Friday, July 14, 2006

New Orleans Musicians News

Sony Music has just signed a deal to sell "Sing Me Back Home" CD by the New Orleans Social Club (http://www.burgundyrecords.com/nosc/) at Lowe's to raise money for the Musician's Village. Conceived of by Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis, Habitat for Humanity will help build 81 homes for displaced New Orleans musicians in the Upper Ninth Ward. The deal was just brokered this week and should provide a very nice chunk of funding. Good news at last!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Internally Displaced Persons or Refugees

Internally Displaced Persons
According to the UN, there is a difference between Refugees (people who have escaped their country because of fear or persecution) and IDPs (people who have not crossed an international border but have left their home because of fear, persecution, or natural disaster). Refugees are given shelter and food and are protected by international law. IDPs are not.

The International Committee of the Red Cross maintains a policy to help IDPs. They claim that it is the government of the affected country to aid IDPs. They want to be on the scene, recording events and helping. They want to help, they just can't be a substitute for government. It's basic goal is to uphold "International Humanitarian Law," and to provide services to those who need them.

I do not have the legal knowledge necessary to understand why this is so, but the UN, instead of creating international laws regarding Internally Displaced Persons, has created a lengthy set of "Guiding Principles." In particular, I focus on principles 6.1 (arbitrary displacement), 6.3 (diplacement should last no longer than required by circumstances), 16.1 (the right to know the fate and whereabout of their relatives - at least 147 are still missing according to LA's Department of Health and Hospitals - other estimates vary up to 705), 16.3 (finding remains of the decease), 21.1 (arbitrary deprivation of property and possessions), 21.3 (property left behind should be protected), 25.1 (primary duty for help lies with national authorities), 28.2 (special efforts made to ensure return), 29.2 ("2. Competent authorities have the duty and responsibility to assist returned and/or resettled internally displaced persons to recover, to the extent possible, their property and possessions which they left behind or were dispossessed of upon their displacement. When recovery of such property and possessions is not possible, competent authorities shall provide or assist these persons in obtaining appropriate compensation or another form of just reparation.")

In my estimation, the people who fled from New Orleans and who no longer have a home to return to should be classified as Internally Displaced Persons. We are not in a war zone (though it may look like there are); there are no outwardly hostile military activities taking place in New Orleans. The housing that was available to many has been closed, shuttered, and demolished forcing these people to begin life somewhere other than what they would call "home."

I know the current government does not seem to really buy into the whole "UN Thing;" (e.g. - Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Gitmo, etc.) however, it must be noted that many of these principles are geared towards helping Internally Displaced Persons who live in war-torn countries. We are supposed to be the richest, most powerful nation on earth. And some of the poorest of the poor in this wealthy nation were forced to leave their home. As much as so many of us call New Orleans home (though I have been gone for 6 years now, whenever I make a trip there I say I am going "home"), it is "home" to everyone that was forced to leave and whoever wants to come back. They are entitled to return home by international law. There can be no question about this. Why is HUD closing down the projects? Those are homes whether we like it or not. The place where you rest your head and cook dinner and store your belongings is your home.

There are arguments that the USACE's incompetence or lack of foresight or negligence or whatever was the cause of this disaster and that the federal government should pay. According to the international guiding principles on displaced persons, the government should pay anyway. Why are they not? Should people be forced to sue (RE: The "Big Dig" in Boston)? What is "just reparation"? Is that filling out endless forms? Is that being forced to live in a tent on a concrete slab? Is that being told that you have to pay to raise your own house because of corruption and negligence? Is that being told you will be refused for FEMA assistance? Or should you have to go without a meal because you have no electricity to either cook or store food? Or should you have to watch your house burn to the ground because of lack of water pressure and insufficient fire crews? I don't see the cooperation that the "guiding principles" suggest.

There are rules and principles established by an international governing body whose headquarters are in our country.

HUD Secretary Bernardi said, ""After a certain period of time, you need to bring the folks back home." You think.

The "Road Home" program is a start. People are being encouraged to register for yet another program. We are approaching 11 months later, and the plan has been financed. The website for the Road Home claims that it will begin registing case files for people in the hardest hit areas of the state. What about those that are not yet home. Will there be satellite offices in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Jackson? How can people come home when there is no home to return to, no trailer to live in, no security or city services?

Sinn Fein.

UPDATE: Hurricane Katrina Legislation Tracking refers to the National and Economic Social Rights Initiative plan (pdf) for Hurricane victims' rights.

Civil Servants Click Here

Jack Ware at metroblog new orleans wrote this post . After all the discussions that I have had with friends about civil servants and the city of New Orleans, someone has finally described it properly albeit on the technological level. I still think the entire procedure would be entirely less effective if you visited in person. At least then you can hear the "F--- You!" dripping from their voices rather than just imagining it in your head.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

NEPA supports NOLA

I love the subdudes. When I was in New Orleans in January, I went to see them at their Behind the Levee CD release party at Southport Music Hall. It was raining, the roof there was still leaking, and it wasn't very crowded. I didn't know one single person there which was fine by me. I loved having the concert be so intimate. It was truly wonderful.

And now this weekend the subdudes are going to be in Scranton, PA (home of TV's the Office) at an event called Poconotes. I am not sure what this is all about, but I plan on going. Their tag line seems to be "From NOLA to NEPA" (I guess that means Northeast Pennsylvania?). Storyville Stompers are the opening act.

On another note, we get a channel or two from up there in Scranton. Whenever I watch some of the smaller market evening news programs, I can't help thinking that either a) one day I am going to see that guy or gal on the national news or b) how the heck did you end up in Scranton? That being said, I find the smaller market news people to be much more professional and polished than the folks who broadcast from New York and Philadelphia. When watching the smaller market news, I feel like I am watching the next Hoda Kotb or Susan Roesgen. I know there are plenty of others out there who started or came through New Orleans. Now if they would all get together to keep the story in the news...

UPDATE: I went to Philadelphia to the Southern Comfort Music Experience on Saturday instead. Beatinpath, Bonerama, and Cowboy Mouth were on the bill. And it was free. And they served booze. And it was outside. So the subdudes will have to come back this way so I can see them next time. Overall it was a good evening, even though it took a long time to get home....

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Easton Flooding

Though it's probably old news now, I will attempt to explain what happened in Easton last week.

The Delaware River is not navigable past Trenton (it may not be navigable to Trenton, but if so, it cannot be much past Trenton). The head waters are far north in New York State. After the type of rain we had here and the amount, the rising of the river was inevitable. I am not sure that the type of flooding was anticipated. Many say that the recent floodings of the Delaware are a result of urban sprawl - that fields that once used to retain the precipitation are now gone instead replaced by subdivisions, asphalt roads, and storm drains. All of these contribute to rising waters in the streams that feed the Delaware and in some cases directly into the Delaware River itself. I don't know if this is true or not, but I do know that in the last three years acres of farmland just north of me has been converted into medium-density housing and roads and construction have been going on all over the place. Is it a coincidence that the Delaware River has flooded three times in two years? I don't know, but I would have to be a fool to think it was simply a coincidence, too.

On Wednesday of last week, people around here were calmly moving stuff from low lying areas. I walked the dog down to the community pool on the riverfront. The water was well below its bank at 10 AM. I walked down the Delaware towards downtown Easton. The people who lived across the street from the river were packing there vans and cars calmly and deliberately. The auto shop and the bait shop were already closed. By two o'clock, the road along the river was closed. The forecast called for the flooding to crest sometime on Thursday morning. Downtown Easton and the rivers that surround it (the Lehigh River and Bushkill Creek) were beginning to flood and gawkers and onlookers came from everywhere to take pictures of "the worst flood since '55." It was bad. Water was rushing the wrong way up the tributaries. Streets and blocks were closed. The free bridge from Easton, PA to Philipsburg, NJ was just about up to the road surface which had not happened since '55. Debris and trees were cruising along and smashing into the bridge and anything else that remained in their way.

At 6 PM Kate and I went down to the community pool which was now completely underwater, and then we headed downtown to look at the raging torrent from a different perspective. Businesses had acquired pumps to keep their basements water from rising too high, and state troopers had cordoned off large areas. It was hard to see, but the water was rushing and raging. It was surreal to see tires and trees and debris of every sort rushing past what is normally a calm and peaceful, shallow river.

In other areas around here, things were worse. Up river the town of Portland, NJ near the Delaware Water Gap National Park got the worst of it. The town is still shuttered a week later and the residents are begging for some kind of help. Down river in Lambertville, NJ and New Hope, PA, I have not heard word though things were bad on the news when we left. This is the third time in two years that those communities have suffered near total losses. I think the people there believe that this can't happen again, yet it does.

Things here seem to be normal, at least in my College Hill neighborhood. Later today, I will explore other areas of town to see what has happened and what is going on.

I did receive an email from Rick Santorum saying that because of my zip code that I could be elgible for FEMA or PEMA assistance. I will have to write him back and politely refuse his offer.

UPDATE: http://www.trentonian.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=16896634&BRD=1697&PAG=461&dept_id=44551&rfi=6
This article states that New Hope is "opened for business" which I can't believe. Two homes were totally destroyed.

UPDATE 2: I read in our local paper that Houston is fed up with the non-working displaced New Orleanians. Mr. Clio has repeatedly stated that this negative image of New Orleanians is undermining our efforts to rebuild. I agree. More on this topic later.