Friday, September 30, 2005

I know you already know this...

But I have to say it again: Karen Hughes is an idiot. "One nation under God" in the Constitution--when did that get added?

Friday cat blogging--snug at home

We've had a lot of stress lately, and it's time to relax

It's easier to go through these things if you have a sister

And I wonder, wonder who...who wrote The Book of Virtues

Bill Bennett, America's former "morality czar" and author of The Book of Virtues, spoke frankly today in a remark he made on his radio program, "Bill Bennett's Morning in America." In response to a caller who wanted to talk about an assertion made in the book, Freakonomics, that the crime rate is down partly because abortion rates have increased:

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More notes on the aftermath

A man keeps calling in to the one radio channel, asking for help in finding his father's body. His father died on September 11. The caller identified the body, which was taken out and shipped to a temporary morgue at St. Gabriel, Louisiana. St. Gabriel officials confirm that the body arrived, but now no one can find it.

A reporter talked about a scene she cannot get out of her mind: She saw an uptown woman walking down the street, carrying some pet taxis. There was no one else around. When an SPCA truck went by, she flagged it down and begged the driver to take her cats, for she knew that the rescuers would make her dump them on the street. She kissed each of her cats goodbye and put them on the truck, then stood alone on the street, sobbing.

Perhaps the strangest story is that of the "cat lady" uptown who didn't know there was a hurricane coming, and was surprised when her power went out and trees started falling down. She finally realized there was a hurricane, and resolved to remain in place with her 34 cats. Someone gave her a radio and some food, and her only fear, she said, was that the rescuers would find her, and force her to leave and abandon her cats. Because a giant cedar fell in front of her house, the rescuers never knew there was house there at all. The woman remained in her candle-lit house, and said she had everything she needed. An artist, she is now painting on roof tiles that fell from her neighbors' houses. One of her cats disappeared, but returned several days later.

I keep wondering what it would feel like if I still lived in New Orleans. I know that my old neighborhood didn't flood, and I can imagine myself going back and feeling fortunate. But I still cannot grasp what the city looks like, and I will never see it at its very worst.

They're trying to wash us away

25% of the people in St. Bernard Parish have flood insurance. The parish was filled with water not because of rain (what you would see if you lived in a federally-designated flood zone), but because of storm surge problems that occurred when the levees broke.

Insurance companies have hired adjusters to evaluate the damage in St. Bernard. They need to look at 26,000 houses, and they say they can each do two houses per day. Believe me, there aren't that many adjusters in the parish. There are plenty of state house inspecters, however, who are hard at work determining which houses can be re-built. But the insurance companies have refused to accept the state government's evaluations, and insist on sending their own adjusters.

The state of Mississippi has already sued the insurance industry to try to prevent them from denying homeowners insurance benefits to people whose houses were damaged by hurricane surge flooding. The denial, of course, would be because the damage was caused by "flooding." Louisiana's insurance commissioner has held back on filing suit, hoping to negotiate with insurance companies, but Louisiana's attorney general says he is considering filing a lawsuit like the one filed in Mississippi.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hello and welcome

FEMA arrived in St. John the Baptist Parish yesterday. For the first time.

My parish president announced today that if the thousands of FEMA trailers that are just sitting there aren't moved very soon, he will take parish law enforcement officers with him and commandeer them.

A woman called in to the radio station to say that she had no walls or floors in her house. The FEMA adjuster came out to inspect it, then she was told she was getting a check for $5,200. When she called FEMA to ask if there had been a mistake, she was told by the FEMA staffer that there was no mistake. However, the staffer failed to explain that an SBA loan would be on the way--instead, she told the caller that she shouldn't expect to be living "in the lap of luxury."

Traffic is horrendous around here. We have a lot of new temporary residents and at least one major artery to New Orleans is still closed. Very few telephones work all the time, and those have buzzing and static. Either an electric company or telephone company truck came by today and knocked our mailbox down. Everyone in the parish looks dazed and confused. There is still tree debris everywhere, but now it is stacked neatly on the street.

New Orleans restauranteur and humane activist dead

Michael Lala, owner of the Old N'Awlins Cookery and founder of the Lala Foundation for Animals, stayed in the city when Katrina hit because he refused to leave his companion animals. He seemed to be doing fine and was talking about looking forward to re-opening the very popular eatery.

I learned today that he has died, presumably from heat and stress.

Lala was a cameraman for New Orleans' WDSU TV for many years. During the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, Lala and another WDSU staffer took a boat into St. Bernard Parish in order to film the devastation. The boat got hung, and Lala dropped into the canal, where all that could be seen for a while was his trademark hat, bobbing on the surface. When he surfaced, he and his partner got back in the boat and proceeded to rescue people from their houses.

It didn't suprise me that Lala stayed behind to care for his pets. It also didn't surprise me that the federal government didn't give a damn about pets and other non-humans (or humans, it seems). Making people drop their pets on the street or leave them behind to drown or starve is as good a definition of cruelty as I can think of.

Michael Brown has a really bad memory, or he is really stupid, or he is a great big liar

Yesterday, former FEMA director and current FEMA welfare prince Michael Brown told Congress--yet again--how confused and shocked he was when Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco requested a federal emergency declaration for Orleans Parish only. This has been a mantra of Brown's, and seems to have worked fairly well for him.

The problem is that it has absolutely nothing to do with fact.

There's a bad smell all over

Those of us who evacuated from Katrina and left food in our refrigerators and freezers came home to a bad smell. A couple of days of baking soda or charcoal took care of that. But people whose houses were flooded were lucky if they found their refrigerators on top of their kitchen counters or floating in their yards. They will probably get replacement appliances.

Those who can still plug in their refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers may be out of luck. Many have already been denied replacement appliances by FEMA because their appliances "still work." Those appliances, of course, will not work for long, for their vents are filled with toxins and mold.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Whatever happened at the Superdome and the Convention Center, it wasn't nearly as bad as we were led to believe

When a FEMA doctor finally arrived at the Louisiana Superdome with a refrigerated 18-wheeler to begin counting and collecting the estimated two hundred bodies, he was surprised to find only six. Of those, four had died of natural causes, one had overdosed, and one had committed suicide. Four other bodies were found outside the Dome. According to both Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron and officials of the state's Health and Human Services Department, no one was killed.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Five Shiite Muslim teachers executed in Iraq

Things are going really well, it seems.

I think irony really IS dead this time

Michael Brown of "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" fame, has been hired as a FEMA consultant.

His job? To help figure out what went wrong with Katrina recovery. His was one of the biggest screw-ups in American history, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of humans and other creatures, and the suffering of thousands. The result? He gets bonus money.

In other news, Osama bin Laden has been hired as a consultant by the Department of Homeland Security.

Hurricane lilies arrive right on time

What a surprise, to look out the window this morning and see scads of oxblood lilies, known by many as "hurricane lilies" because they appear after the busiest part of the hurricane season. Yesterday, there were none to be seen, and I hadn't even noticed the buds. The garden is trashed by Katrina, and most things are going dormant, anyway, so I haven't looked at it much. The hurricane lilies surprise me every year, but this year is special.

The pink bud you see behind the lilies belongs to a rain lily. Plenty of them are about to burst forth into bloom in that same bed.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

You don't have to be "far left" to make sense, but maybe it helps

"In the world of the far left, it is now acceptable to accuse a president and vice president and sending young Americans to Iraq to be killed and maimed, so their friends at Halliburton can make money. And anyone who supports the Iraq strategy is also guilty of sending kids to die and is a coward to boot."
Bill O'Reilly

Saudi prince critical of U.S. foreign policy buys over 5% of Fox

Remember Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, whose $10 million check was returned by then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani because bin Talal blamed the United States' foreign policy and its support of Israel for the September 11 attacks? He has purchased 5.46% of the Fox Corporation.

Concerned Americans donate a total of $600 to re-build Iraq

We may never know how much it cost to conduct the appeal campaign, but I think it's safe to say it didn't pay for itself. Perhaps Americans thought their $30 billion in tax money was sufficient.

The calls keep coming in

We have all been listening non-stop to United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans, the patchwork radio channel made up of all of the New Orleans radio stations and broadcasting 24/7 out of Baton Rouge. They are doing a fantastic job of getting information to us, and sometimes they make us laugh, which is just as important. For me, the highlight was when one of the announcers read the lyrics to "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)" in a very serious voice with sickening romantic 80's instrumental music in the background. Maybe you had to be there, but try to imagine how punch-drunk these people are, and how hysterical many of the listeners are feeling.

The calls keep coming in. Today, a man called to say he could not find his best friend's mother's dead body. He knows she died, and that her body was removed from her house, but no one can tell him where it is. No one can even give him a hint.

A woman called in to say that after she waited hours at a Red Cross Center and was about to talk with a volunteer, he closed the center because Hurricane Rita was on the way. There was no sign on the door saying that the center would close.

Another woman called to say that she was on hold for hours to talk to the Red Cross, and when she finally got to talk to someone, the Red Cross staffer told her her address didn't exist in the files. The caller had moved three months earlier, and her new house was in the Katrina zone, but all the Red Cross had was her old address, which was not in the hurricane zone. She was refused services.

An angry, screaming man from my parish called to say he was upset that billions of dollars would be spent on New Orleans' streets, which have been disastrous for years. "They'll just build more housing projects for more crackheads!" he yelled, obviously oblivious to the crackheads, methheads, and drunks in his own community. Mostly, though, he was upset that New Orleans might get good streets after operating for decades with bad ones.

A reporter for the station was in Terrebonne Parish, and saw caskets floating down the highway after flood waters ravaged a graveyard.

You can listen to United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans on the Web via WWL-AM.

"She is not working well for me"

Margaret Cho on Barbara Bush.

Bush administration adopts Halliburton accounting practices

From The Left Coaster, via arse poetica, comes the news that the Bush administration has not provided Congress with any details about where and how billions of dollars in emergency Katrina aid was spent. The administration is required by law to provide Congress with weekly updates on emergency spending, but so far, all Congress has seen amounts to "a few spreadsheets."

This piece of information comes at a time when Republicans are wringing their hands over what will happen to the money that is given to historically corrupt Louisiana. A commenter on my blog called Louisiana the most corrupt political machine in history, but I reminded him/her that that is no longer true now that we have the Bush administration.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Texas had its own evacuation issues

So it turns out that Houston has poor people after all. When the threat of Hurricane Rita came, homeless shelters were closed or full. At the last minute, the Red Cross and some schools opened shelters, but city officials did not announce the openings because they didn't want to shelters to be overwhelmed by a rush of people other than the homeless. They thought it was best for the police and emergency workers to direct people to the shelters.

This may or may not have been a sensible decison, but one wonders about the city's decision to have homeless people call hotlines to find ways to evacuate. Note to Houston officials: Homeless people have no land lines because they do not have houses. They have no cell phones because they have no money. They cannot use shelter phones when all of the shelters are full or closed.

Houston did open Barnett Field House to evacuees in cars who were unable to go anywhere because of the horrendous traffic jams caused by attempted evacuation from the city. (To the city's credit, pets were allowed in this shelter.) And those who did spend hours on the highway ("Road to Nowhere" keeps playing in my head) sitting still and running out of gas decided they weren't going to let Mother Nature win the destructive behavior award--they tossed who knows how many pounds of trash out the window or left it on the side of the road (thanks to What Do I Know? for this information).

The conclusions to be drawn are that governments are not prepared to evacuate and/or protect large numbers of people, and that during crises (just like during everyday life), a lot of people act like the buttholes they are.

Which reminds me: Yo, Kathy--about that omelet all over your smug face--better get out a Texas-sized washcloth. You missed a spot.

Blogging may slow down

I still have no cable, and now the phones are in and out. Right now I can connect via one phone line but not the other. The coffee shop down the street provides wireless, but I no longer have my wireless configuration on my notebook since my operating system crashed last weekend. I could reconfigure it, but that means I have to use the software CD, and my DVD drive broke the day after I got Windows re-installed. I sent off for a new drive, which should have arrived today, but we had no mail delivery, presumably because of Rita.

Anyway, if I disappear for a while, it's because I cannot connect to the Internet.

"Hope you know how to swim"

When the twin towers came down and the city of New York was in shambles, Louisiana sent five brand new fire trucks named The Spirit of Louisiana. Louisianians drove caravans of kettles, pans, portable stoves, and food, and stood on the corners of the debris-strewn streets, cooking gumbo and jambalaya for first responders and work crews.

Louisiana is a deeply flawed state, with a vey large share of poverty, ignorance, corruption, and right-wing horror. New Orleanians can be denial-prone and parochial. But Louisianians cannot be faulted for a lack of generosity. Because they have lived through countless floods and hurricanes, they are quick to send money, food, and clothing to disaster survivors. They travel to Latin America, climb into boats, and take supplies to the poor. They open their houses to stranded travelers. Their doctors and nurses perform numerous surgeries on poor Latin American children.

Many New Orleanians who evacuated from Katrina wound up in New York or nearby communities. A lot of them were lucky enough--or so they thought--to attend the Saints/Giants game. When I heard that a Giants fan had dumped his drink on a New Orleanian who was cheering for the Saints, I thought, well, there's always one. But there wasn't just one. When the evacuees were identified, Giants fans screamed at them, "New Orleanians are stupid!" "You deserved what you got!" and "Hope you know how to swim!" These things, the evacuees report, were the somewhat decent things that were said to them: The others are unprintable.

What happened in New York would have been tasteless and cruel under any circumstances, but considering Louisiana's generosity to New York after September 11, it was outrageous. And aside from the obvious cruelty of attacking the suddenly homeless, what happened at the Giants game is more proof that the administration's own "blame game" is one they are winning.

10,000 hotel rooms empty in New Orleans

New Orleans cannot rebuild without workers, and workers cannot come to New Orleans without places to stay. Theoretically, that isn't a problem: There are 10,000 vacant hotel rooms in the city. On behalf of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, FEMA plans to book long-term leases for the rooms, but the contract has been held up for two weeks by attorneys who are trying to determine if it is legal. There is a federal law that prohibits FEMA from renovating private property, but many of the rooms cannot be inhabited without having some work done on them.

As for the rooms that are ready for use now--FEMA reports that the leases are "moving forward." Apparently, there is concern over the financial scrutiny that FEMA will face after the contract is signed. The first 1,000 rooms will go to essential personnel. The rest will go to workers and evacuees.

Governor Blanco creates crazy bureacracy clearinghouse

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has established the Louisiana Family Recovery Agency, whose staff members will help families access the maze of government and private funding and aid organizations. The new agency's mission is to relieve the massive frustration people are experiencing as they are put on hold for hours, hung up on by automated systems, rejected by FEMA for invalid reasons, and told they cannot get aid unless they perform activities that are impossible for them to perform.

Between 400 and 500 Louisianians will be hired to staff the Louisiana Family Recovery Agency.

Friday, September 23, 2005

House votes to let Head Start centers use religion as hiring criterion

Via This Space For Rent, I learned the disgusting news that the U.S. House of Representatives voted today to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers. Church Head Start schools could hire only employees who share their religion, and they would still get federal funding.

Many, many years ago, I was a Head Start teacher. Religion was not an issue in any part of the Head Start curriculum. We taught the children how to socialize with one another, how to resolve conflicts, and how to form vocabularies, sing songs, and do simple arithmetic. In the rural schools, we taught them how to use a knife and fork.

Why, then, would a staff member's religion matter if the school did not have a religious agenda for the children? But now it is all about a religious agenda--in the schools, in the government, in foreign policy, in private family life.

Now, if someone doesn't stop them, they are going to hijack Head Start, too.

The system doesn't work--not even in Texas

A reporter who was in Texas yesterday said that Texas evacuees could not buy gas because so many Texans were evacuating in SUV's and gobbling up gallons and gallons of fuel. Today, many Texans complained that there wasn't a real evacuation plan. Numerous drivers could not get gas and had to move to the shoulder of the road. There were no law enforcement officers in sight. Did you hear that, Kathy Walt?

Because FEMA's Blue Roof program failed, there are many more leaky roofs in Louisiana now that Rita's rain is falling.

Today, I saw a friend whose house was severely damaged by Katrina. He doesn't know if it can be re-built. He and his family are staying with a family member because the FEMA trailers are "not available." Yesterday, a FEMA representative was on our only radio channel, explaining that the FEMA trailers do not have to be parked in a FEMA trailer park if residents have others places they can put them. Today, a woman who wanted to put a trailer on a particular piece of property called in, saying she spoke with a FEMA representative who told her that the media needs to "stop making things up."

I used to think the IRS was the gateway to madness, but even that organization pales in comparison with FEMA.

FEMA is doing its best, but those Louisianians sure are whiny and ungrateful

There is an email meme going around about a "true story" of a doctor who went to the New Orleans Convention Center to help Katrina victims, and was assaulted and insulted by angry, complaining, foul-mouthed people who should have been grateful to see him.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Friday cat blogging--storm warning

Find out where the storm is headed

Make sure the cell phone is charged

Be prepared to go, just in case

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Those Ticketmaster people are such a hoot

In my emailbox this morning: Don't miss Widespread Panic

Quote of the day

"Those in low-lying areas who think they can ride out this storm should be sure to write their social security numbers on their arms in indelible ink."
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco

Bush gives Saudis a break on slave trade, child sex workers, and forced laborers

In the newest chapter of the George W. Bush book on encouraging Saudi oppression, the resident decided yesterday to waive financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia for failing to address the problems of its slave trade of prostitues, the exploitation of children as sex slaves, and the practice of forced labor, the victims of which are mostly women and children.

Bush gave the Saudis a break because they are our "ally" in the war on terrorism. What, may I ask, is terrorism, if not forcing children to engage in sex acts and work in sweat shops?

There will be no outrage from the "values" corps, who are at home rubbing their sweaty hands on their Bibles and drooling over how well their leader is handling disaster recovery. I somehow doubt there will be much outrage from the "liberals," either.

Bush's war on women and children--and on the poor in general--is the greatest atrocity of his administration. First, hundreds of thousands of women and children in Africa, then the drowning people in New Orleans, and now this.

Bill to be introduced that would require emergency safety plan for pets

Congressman Tom Santos (California), Barney Frank (Massachusetts), and Christopher Shays (Connecticut) are introducing a bill that would require state and local disaster preparedness plans to include provisions for companion and service animals.

There are no poor people in Houston

This morning, right after Bush made his speech to remind us that we should be focused on terrorism rather than the dead bodies, missing people and pets, lost jobs, and homelessness on the Gulf Coast, there was a question and answer session. In reply to a question about Hurricane Rita, he had the truly remarkable gall to say that the Houston area was better prepared because "people had learned that they should evacuate."

The only conclusion we can draw from his remark is that there are no poor people in Houston. Or if, by chance, there are, they all got up this morning and took taxis to to the nearest car dealerships, where they made deals on their brand new Toyotas and Buicks, and are now sailing down the highway, out of harm's way.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Levees designed to protect New Orleans from imaginary hurricanes, not real ones

After Hurricane Betsy ravaged New Orleans in 1965, the city fortified itself with levees that could supposedly offer protection for a storm of up to a Category 3 strength, and then only a fast-moving Category 3. As more and more of Louisiana's coastline disappeared over the years, it became obvious to anyone who lived in New Orleans that what may have worked in 1965 was quite likely to be useless.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

FEMA fails to send money to Plaquemines Parish

The money never arrived. Governor Blanco managed to put together $10 million from various cracks in the wall, and wired it to the sheriff of Plaquemines so he wouldn't have to lay off all parish workers. As of this writing, she is still waiting for FEMA to send the money it promised was "on the way."

Nothing has changed here, despite the exit of Michael Brown and the entrance of David Paulison. Despite speeches made in front of cathedrals and continual scoldings about the blame game. Only it isn't a game--it's life and death and destruction. It's total abandonment by a government composed of "We're going to run the government like a business" compassionate conservatives.

Margaret Cho is cooking

Now that she is blogging again on a regular basis, I feel better. Here is her statement on the animals who were stranded or killed because of the government's "response" to Katrina.

Here is her special Bush vacation photo.

Farewell, Molly Yard

Harvard Law School caves

In order to keep its grant money. The Supreme Court will hear the Solomon Amendment case in May, with oral arguments beginning in December of this year.

Don't it make your blown roof blue

Several days ago, Louisianians in the Hurricane Katrina zone were told they could get blue tarps by calling FEMA's Blue Roof program. The problem was that there were only three application offices, and they were not only miles and miles and miles away from most homeowners, but they were also inaccessible to many people because of closed highways.

A couple of days ago, FEMA added more Blue Roof offices. However, some people were told they had to go to Mississippi to get their tarps. Others have no transportation. They are being told they have to provide a signature by faxing it to a FEMA office. Most people do not have fax machines in their houses or even within walking distance. They may have an option of mailing the signature--I don't know--but when you have holes in your roof, time is kind of important.

Maybe Halliburton should take over Plaquemines Parish

The sheriff of Plaquemines Parish now has an overdraft of $5.5 million, and unless some FEMA money gets to his office by 5 p.m. today, he is laying off all parish employees. That means that 500 Louisiana state troopers will have to come in. The problem with that is that there are not 500 troopers available. Also, any troopers who came into the parish would not be able to do emergency work because they would not know their way around.

One of the rumors circulating is that FEMA is releasing money with great caution because of Louisiana's history of corruption. While it is true that Louisiana has a history of immense corruption, the federal government didn't seem to mind at all when Halliburton "misplaced" $9 billion in Iraq.

But that is just a rumor. Several state officials have talked to FEMA staff members, and have gotten several different stories, but they all end with the same line, "Oh, we're sending the money."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Butthole of the Week Award

Definitely goes to Texas Governor Rick Perry's spokeswoman, Kathy Walt, speaking about the approach of Hurricane Rita:
FEMA has already been part of this. They have offered whatever support we need. Texas is not Louisiana. You won't see that breakdown occurring here.

Louisiana hurricane evacuation money never spent on hurricane evacuation

In 1997, Congress ordered FEMA to develop a hurricane evacuation plan for New Orleans, but somehow, the money wound up in the coffers of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Commission. A report produced by the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission turned out to be about the needs of the Causeway through the year 2016.

(Coninue reading at MoJo Blog)

Mayor of Oswego arrested

Another U.S. mayor has been arrested for soliciting sex with underage citizens. John Gosek, mayor of Oswego, New York, may be charged with rape in the third degree and criminal sexual act in the third degree because of his tendency to telephone underage females and entice and coerce them to have sex with him.

In early August, former Oswego City Parks Commissioner Robert P. Farrell was arrested for communicating indecently via email with 12- and 14-year-old girls.

If Gosek is found guilty, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

The "John Wayne dude"--NOT

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin likes to call Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commanding general of Joint Task Force Katrina the "John Wayne dude." Actually, from what I am able to tell, Honore is the exact opposite of the John Wayne persona. Whereas John Wayne's characters prevailed by being cool and deliberate, Honore prefers being foul-mouthed, swaggering, and insulting.

I have no doubt that Honore, a native Louisianian, is doing a good job of taking charge. There is already talk of his being the front-runner for Time's "Person of the Year" award. He is also being praised for his sympathy for the poor and the elderly. His treatment of the news media, however, leaves much to be desired. During the last five years, the media has deserved every insult we could hurl, but they are now asking intelligent, important questions about the hurricane, and Honore is responding by covering for the White House and insulting the reporters.

I imagine that people are eating this up. I'm not.

Not enough hours in the day

This afternoon, the makeshift 24/7 post-Katrina radio channel aired that Department of Homeland Security public service announcement in which a little girl asks her parents what she is supposed to do if we are attacked by terrorists. The annoucer then comes on and tells us how important it is for each family to have a plan.

Oh, yeah. Everybody in south Louisiana is pulling out the duct tape, wrapping our houses in plastic, and looking for Arabs in our garages. It's hard work, defeating the evil ones at the Red Cross shelter.

I wonder if I will ever see my mail

Mail delivery resumed here on September 10, though a few days ago, there was, for some reason, no delivery. There is a huge heap of back mail sitting somewhere that we still don't have. The post office can do nothing but wait for it all to come in, and then they will deliver it. But I wonder when; it has now been three weeks since the storm hit.

Our phone service was fine when we returned, but now the best we can get is a dial tone with a buzz. Sometimes it has a buzz and distant busy signals. Sometimes there is so much static that you can't use it, and sometimes there is nothing at all. My cell phone still doesn't work, though one of the pieces of mail I did receive was a bill for non-existent cell phone services.

Though we are very fortunate to have only a big mess and some house damage, it is nevertheless stressful. My business has almost shut down because several of my clients have not returned from their evacuation trips. It is still hard to locate people; today, I learned that some friends of ours lost a townhouse they had moved into right before Katrina hit. And then there is the business of applying to FEMA and wondering whether our application has been thrown out, as so many have been. Traffic is almost at a standstill in some places. We still have no cable connection. Our insurance adjuster is coming on Friday--if we haven't evacuated to Alabama.

To make matters more interesting, my only Internet-capable computer crashed over the weekend, and I had to wipe out my hard drive and re-install windows. Once I got everything up and running, my DVD drive broke (thank goodness it waited until I had re-installed my operating system). Also, there is something wrong with my car air conditioner (it is sweltering here), which the dealership was unable to find, but they are going to try again tomorrow.

Fortunately, our blender is working just fine. I bought some limes and some white peaches, and plan to make peach margaritas a bit later. We can't buy groceries, per se, because we may lose power and/or leave town, but consuming a little fruit is always a good idea.

Hurricane FEMA strikes again

The latest news about FEMA--as though we needed more--is that some university students were told, during their recent orientation, that FEMA had informed the school that all hurricane-displaced students would immediately receive a $2,000 stipend. FEMA now says it knows nothing about this.

Hurricane Rita is now a Category 2 storm, and is expected to become a Category 3 soon. A high-pressure system in the Gulf is protecting New Orleans, and most forecasters think Rita will hit Texas at the end of the week. However, there is also valid reason to believe that the storm will hit Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, instead. If that happens, a storm surge would most likely wash over Grand Isle and Lafitte, Louisiana, and then continue over the Harvey Canal levee, dumping a lot of water onto the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

Such a hit would also put my area at risk for tornadoes. Washington Parish, one of our neighboring parishes, was torn to bits by "jumper" tornadoes during Hurricane Katrina. We have already made hotel reservations in Alabama, in the event that we have to evacuate again. We cannot return to the lovely old Bailey Hotel in Bunkie because that would place us too close to the storm.

On "respecting" the president

Almost every week, there is a letter to the editor chiding someone for not "respecting" the president. Usually, it is Maureen Down who is being chided, which is funny, because none of these letter-writers criticized her when, for years, she was busy ripping Clinton apart. Some of the letter-writers believe Bush should be respected because he is the president (which, in my opinion, he clearly is not, since he was not duly elected to the position), while others ask for respect for the office itself.

I do not respect the office because it is an exclusive club for white Christian males, and I do not respect institutions that discriminate against people on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, and religious belief. I especially do not respect it now, since an unelected person was appointed to hold it.

But the presidency aside, why on earth am I obligated to respect George W. Bush--an ignorant, amoral, murdering, child-poisoning, misogynistic, imperialistic Philistine?

This concept of always respecting the nation's "leader" comes directly from the equally dangerous concept of always respecting one's parents. In my practice, I constantly see adults who were treated cruelly and inappropriately by their parents, but they want to make sure I know that they "respect" them. I always ask them what their parents did to earn their respect, and they are often stunned by the question.

What has Bush done to earn my respect?

"Where are all the light-skinned black people?"

In his column today, New Orleans Times-Picayune writer Jarvis DeBerry tells of a very dark-skinned friend who lives in Memphis who was approached by a New Orleans African American evacuee who asked her, "Where are all the light-skinned black people?"

The woman asking the question was totally clueless as to how offensive her question was, which tells you everything you need to know about how racial matters are conducted in some parts of New Orleans. DeBerry correctly pointed out that the evacuee was looking for an equivalent of New Orleans' 7th Ward, where light-skinned African Americans live, attend school and church, and socialize.

A couple of nights ago, I went down to the local Chinese take-0ut to get some dinner. The young Chinese-American woman at the counter was telling me how lawless Bogalusa (a city in Washington Parish) had become since the hurricane had demolished much of the area. That struck me as a bit funny, since Bogalusa has been lawless for as long as I can remember. Anyway, she told me about lootings and shootings, and then said, "It's because of the blacks, isn't it?"

I stifled an urge to say, "No, I think it's because of the Asians." Instead, I gave her some education about Washington Parish and its gun-toting, truck-driving idiots and the law enforcement officials who protect them.

Though racism abounds among white people, we need to be reminded from time to time that it is also prevalent among almost everyone.

A message from the Organic Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) needs your immediate help to stop Congress and the Bush administration from seriously degrading organic standards. After 35 years of hard work, the U.S. organic community has built up a multi-billion dollar alternative to industrial agriculture, based upon strict organic standards and organic community control over modification to these standards.

Now, large corporations such as Kraft, Wal-Mart, & Dean Foods--aided and abetted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are moving to lower organic standards by allowing a Bush appointee to create a list of synthetic ingredients that would be allowed organic production. Even worse these proposed regulatory changes will reduce future public discussion and input and take away the National Organic Standards Board's (NOSB) traditional lead jurisdiction in setting standards. What this means, in blunt terms. is that USDA bureaucrats and industry lobbyists, not consumers, will now have more control over what can go into organic foods and products.

Today, Tuesday, Sept. 20, acting in haste and near-total secrecy, the U.S. Senate will vote on a "rider" to the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that will reduce control over organic standards from the National Standards Board and put this control in the hands of federal bureaucrats in the USDA (remember the USDA proposal in 1997-98 that said that genetic engineering, toxic sludge, and food irradiation would be OK on organic farms, or USDA suggestions in 2004 that heretofore banned pesticides, hormones, tainted feeds, and animal drugs would be OK?).

For the past week in Washington, OCA has been urging members of the Senate not to reopen and subvert the federal statute that governs U.S. Organic standards (the Organic Food Production Act - OFPA), but rather to let the organic community and the National Organic Standards resolve our differences over issues like synthetics and animal feed internally, and then proceed to a open public comment period. Unfortunately most Senators seem to be listening to industry lobbyists more closely than to us. We need to raise our voices.

In the past, grassroots mobilization and mass pressure by organic consumers have been able to stop the USDA and Congress from degrading organic standards. This time Washington insiders tell us that the "fix is is already in." So we must take decisive action now. We need you to call your U.S. Senators today. We need you to sign the following petition and send it to everyone you know. We also desperately need funds to head off this attack in the weeks and months to come. Thank you for your support. Together we will take back citizen control over organic standards and preserve organic integrity.

Take action here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Images of women in fashion magazines--a good read

Sour Duck has a wonderfully insightful post up about women as we are depicted in fashion magazines. I highly recommend it.

"But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you"

Read poet Sharon Olds' letter to Laura Bush, in which she declines Bush's invitation to be part of the National Book Festival in Washington.

Wal-Mart accused of yet another labor standard violation

Already known for discriminating against female employees, violating safety standards by locking its employees in at night, and denying disability benefits to employees, Wal-Mart is now being sued for denying employees their lunch breaks.

Aid still not getting to hurricane survivors, but there is plenty of frustration

According to the Mirror, hundreds of tons of food shipped from Great Britain for Hurricane Katrina survivors have been blocked from distribution. The NATO ration packs, which have been declared unfit for human consumption, are in a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, according to the newspaper. The packs, which cost millions of dollars, are the same ones British soldiers eat in Iraq, and they have been approved by NATO for consumption by members of the American military.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog-- some of this material will be familiar to readers of DED Space)

The governor's little helper

Is Chang. Funny, the rest of his family relies on cocaine and alcohol.

Bush Management and Budget official arrested

If the Bush administration produces many more crooks, it will start competing with the Reagan administration for the most arrested and/or convicted staff members of all time. The latest is Director of the Office of Procurement Policy of the Department of Management and Budget, David Safavian. Safavian has been arrested on three charges related to obstruction of a GSA-OIG investigation.

Another post-Katrina update

First, the say-what? FEMA announcement of the day: That $2,000 that everyone gets--oops, it may just be a loan, not a grant.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was re-opened today, and is jam-packed with vehicles trying to get to Metairie, one presumes, since it is illegal to go to the east bank of New Orleans unless you have a business in the Central Business District.

The citizens of St. Bernard Parish, which--for all practical purposes, no longer exists--were told they could return to the parish today to assess damage (the most common assessment is "Where did my house go?") and salvage any remaining items. They have to leave the parish by dusk, which presents a problem because the traffic jams and the checkpoints are making it very hard to enter. They are sitting on the bridges that connect to St. Bernard for more than two hours.

Some Red Cross centers in Louisiana did not distribute aid yesterday or the day before because they were closed for the weekend.

Michael Moore has been seen (not by me) in my city, helping out with the Camp Casey distribution center that was set up here by Cindy Sheehan's attorneys, who live here.

Several years ago, some people restored and re-opened an old movie theater downtown in my city. They showed really good films, but their customer service was appalling. A couple of years ago, they stopped showing films and began doing live theatre only. Since we have returned to the parish, they have been showing old classic things like Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges, etc. non-stop, free of charge. A nice gesture for people with transportation who are living in shelters and in campgrounds, or people nearby who have no power and want a break.

Marcus Reichert's thoughts on New Orleans

For a so-called world leader with two black people—at one time—in his cabinet, dedicated to his racist imperialist agenda, it would seem unlikely that Bush would consider the very same poor people whose children make up much of his armed forces unworthy of the most basic civic concern. However, bearing in mind his brother’s nefarious (unproven) insistence that rural blacks not have the right to vote in the state of Florida, why should anyone even modestly aligned with the White House have anything to do with protecting blacks, and poor whites, from the ravages of nature— no, not when there are diffident Muslims to be subjugated, and it’s far less trouble than keeping track of one’s own backyard.

Read the entire editorial by Marcus Reichert at The Raw Story.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

An editorial worth reading

Richard Amrhine says it better than anyone.

FEMA--another huge disaster

We all know that there is no way FEMA could have been more incompetent in its handling (I use the term loosely) of the Katrina response. Residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are at their wit's end right now, trying to get FEMA aid.

But the situation is even worse than you think.

Tennessee takes a closer look at Love In Action

Good news from Tennessee Guerilla Women: The state of Tennessee may shut down Love In Action, the organization run by gay men pretending to be straight whose mission is to make gay people heterosexual. The place has been operating as a mental health agency, but without a license. What needs to occur now is for the insurance agencies who got ripped off (and they were fools if they did) to sue Love In Action for all for all of the fees paid.

Governor Blanco--still waiting for a bus

Hours after Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco was assured by FEMA that 500 c0mmercial buses were on their way to pick up people who were stranded in shelters, houses, and on the streets. They didn't arrive. Blanco then suggested that school buses be used, but FEMA rejected this idea because the school buses had no air conditioning. When the commercial buses still didn't arrive, the governor sent in as many school buses as she could.

Blanco then called White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and told him to forget the 500 buses--she needed 5,000 buses. Wednesday night, two days after the storm hit, the governor learned that the buses had entered the northern part of the state, approximately six hours from New Orleans.

Eventually, FEMA instructed the state to stop loading people onto school buses because helicopters were on the way. Blanco instructed her staff to ignore this directive, and they continued to load people onto the buses and take them to safety.

The entire transportation plan for a Louisiana hurricane had already been detailed in the Hurricane Pam tabletop exercise, though it appears that Michael Brown threw away his Hurricane Pam packet as soon as the meeting was over.

Emergency management--an oxymoron

The FEMA problems get worse every day; apparently, there isn't a better idiot to be found. Thousands of people who evacuated returned to their houses or gave their home addresses to FEMA and were told they could not have their $2,000 because--wait for it--since they are back in their houses, they were not displaced.

Calling the Red Cross is useless. Now, when people call, they get a message telling them that the lines are all busy and forget it. Why we still rely on the Red Cross for anything is beyond me. I thought, after they killed those Americans by giving them deadly blood transfusions in the 80's, they should have ceased to exist. Interestingly, even people who do not like the Red Cross never bring up either the AIDS murders or the later mishandling of funds scandal--just the September 11 issue. Americans have extremely short memories.

Every hour or so, we hear a message on the radio telling us that if we smell gas or hear a hissing noise, we should leave our house immediately and go to a safe place. However, this creates somewhat of a problem for us (see below).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Kind of gives a whole new meaning

To the term, "Bring me a cake with a file in it."

How can Jeb Bush possibly have time to govern Florida?

He must do it in between trips to the jailhouse to visit his kids or in between trips to the bail bondspeople to get his family out of the big house.

Today, John Ellis Bush, Jeb's youngest son, was arrested and charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest.

John Ellis has been arrested before--for cavorting naked with an underage girl in an SUV in a parking lot of a Tallahassee shopping mall. Then there was Jeb's other son, George P. Bush, who was arrested for stalking his ex-girlfriend, and convicted of vandalizing her house. Noelle Bush, you'll recall, was arrested and charged with using illegal drugs and forging prescriptions.

Of course, criminal behavior isn't restricted to the Jeb part of the family. Jeb's brother Neil swindled people out of millions of dollars in the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal. Bush never went to jail, but he was banned from the banking business and fined $50,000. George W. Bush, of course, committed insider trading when he was the head of Harken Energy, but he was never convicted because the head of the "investigation" just happened to be his father's attorney. Then there were those DUI arrests and God knows what else in the substance category.

The governor of Florida referred to his son's latest arrest as "a personal family matter."

I'm back, which is more than I can say for FEMA

I'm now back online, after my notebook crashed yesterday (we still have no cable, so there's no using the desktop computer). I wiped out my hard drive and re-installed Windows last night, and this morning, I found a friend with cable, and plugged into his computer and got all of my downloads. Everything has been re-configured, cookies are re-set, and I'm back on track.

A few days ago, I mentioned that FEMA failed to show up at the FEMA community meeting in Slidell, and that I wondered if they were going to show up in Mandeville. They didn't. But they did send a FEMA contractor. People waited in line for hours and hours, then filled out applications. It turns out that these applications were useless, and the contractor apparently didn't have a clue. Everyone had to go back to square one--the telephone and the Web. I should note that the contractor is a Texas company.

FEMA says it just wasn't prepared for a big catastrophe. Well, it's not like it's a disaster management agency or anything.

I learned today that one of my friends evacuated to the same little town that we did, and I am really disappointed that I didn't know this when it mattered.

New Orleans' Director of Homeland Security says that Mayor Nagin is jumping the gun on bringing people back into the city. Tree cutters are cutting power lines that had just been restored. Our phones keep going out and I don't know why; most cell phones still do not work, and it is hard to locate people.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Camp Casey has been destroyed

Thieves and vandals have taken everything, even Casey Sheehan's boots. All gone. The crosses, the tents, the flowers, the books. Everything. You want to talk about looting? There are some slimeball looters in Texas.


The myth of American generosity

A local radio broadcaster, discussing all of the aid being given to hurricane victims, referred to America as "the most giving country in the world." This is a commonly held, but false, belief.

In 2004, the U.S. ranked second to last among developed countries in providing foreign aid. We each spend 15 cents a day on foreign aid, and only 21 cents a day on private giving.

Nearly 18% of American children live in poverty, and we rank at or near the bottom of the list among developed nations when it comes to infant mortality, childhood nutrition, and preschool access.

Look who's in charge of hurricane reconstruction

Could there possibly be anything as outrageous as George W. Bush's appointing himself the special investigator into the Katrina tragedy?

Yes, there could.

Friday cat blogging--New Orleans edition

One of the two lions at the entrance to the Audubon Zoo

Lion's paw

Thursday, September 15, 2005

An update on post-Katrina life in my parish

The resident stood alone and spoke at St. Louis Cathedral tonight. We still don't have cable, but I wouldn't have watched, anyway. All I could think of was the cruel irony of having a complete idiot in charge during a period of our history when two of America's greatest crises occurred. If we have many more crises, he will run out of firefighters to use as props.

Over here, I had a pleasant surprise when I went to the pizza place down the road to pick up some salads. There was a big animal rescue truck parked outside, and three rescuers were sitting at the bar eating pizza. I was so happy to meet them. They were very nice. I spoke more to the one sitting next to me; he had come here from the mountains in Georgia. The people in the restaurant, including the management, appeared very proud to have them there.

Louisiana's Commissioner of Insurance announced today that he had installed so many phones and trained so many staff members, people could now call without being placed on hold.

I am now hearing people's evacuation stories. One went to the Louisiana/Texas state line and stayed in a church gym. One stayed in a church in a neighboring parish, and when he arrived home, people had looted his apartment and had slept in it. A few went to Florida and stayed with relatives; one went to a nearby parish and had no power for days. One is in California with relatives, one is just outside of Baton Rouge. There are many people I have yet to track down because the phone service is so bad.

On two occasions in the last couple of days, people who suffered terrible damage in the storm have told me what a hardship it has been for them to not be able to buy meat. Since I haven't eaten meat in almost thirty years, this struck me as too strange.

Our parish radio station is on the air again, but I continue to listen to the makeshift station--United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans--a partnership of several stations that has been pieced together in Baton Rouge. There are always two on-air personalities--gospel, rock, and hip-hop deejays, executives and talk show hosts--the combinations are intriguing. Tonight, it was sickening to hear my parish president (who is an excellent parish leader) slobber all over George W. Bush, but then, he also endorsed Bobby Jindal, the extreme right-wing wonder, for governor.

Our broken roof will get a temporary cover soon, and the insurance adjuster will be here in a week. There is a lot of debris to be chopped up and carried away, and the gutter will have to be replaced. Casual conversations in the grocery store or in cafes are still about house damage and evacuation experiences. People are already talking about being "positive" about the disaster, and if there is indeed anything positive that could come about, it would be the re-building of New Orleans as a place that is not festering with corruption, crime, and poverty.

Pet evacuation problem gets Zogby focus

I took the latest Zogby poll last night, and most of the questions were about pet evacuation during a natural disaster. This will be one of the few Zogby polls I follow up on.

Remembering Hurricane Pam

Hurricane Pam, a slow-moving Category 3 storm, hit New Orleans with 120 mph winds. Twenty inches of rain fell in some places, and the storm surge topped the levees. Over a million residents evacuated, and between 500,000 and 600,000 buildings were destroyed. Some say that 60,000 people died; others say the death toll was between 25,000 and 100,000.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)


More top FEMA officials have resign or are expected to resign, it was reported today by the New York Daily News. Daniel Craig, FEMA's recovery division director, has resigned, and--what a coincidence--just like Michael Brown, Craig "had long planned to leave the agency."

Edward Buikema, acting director of the agency's response division, is going back to his old job of Region 5 director. Deputy director Patrick Rhode is expected to resign, presumably because he doesn't get along with David Paulison.

Question of the day

I was hanging out at one of my favorite blogs, What Do I Know?, where Kathy is serving up smoked tofu jambalaya in honor of Louisiana. Foodie dropped by with this gem that I thought I'd share with everyone:

Q: What is George W. Bush's position on Roe v. Wade?

A: He doesn't give a damn how people get out of New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Hear this, and hear it well"

"To anyone who even suggests that this great city should not be rebuilt, hear this and hear it well: We will rebuild."

Thus spoke a determined Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisiana, when she addressed the legislature and the people of Louisiana this evening. In a moving speech that sometimes drew prolonged applause, Blanco accepted responsibility for any failures on the state level during the Katrina crisis, and vowed to work until every displaced citizen of Louisiana had a home and a job.

Though ignored by the reporters who covered the speech, one of the most important things Blanco said was that if Congress expected Louisiana to properly re-build the levees, it would have to finally give Louisiana its fair share of energy revenues. The state has been undercut by Congress for decades in this department.

The governor also suggested that New Orleans' shameful public school system would be rebuilt in such a way that children would get the education they deserve, and that health services will be increased (this particular project was actually in effect before the hurricane hit; I lost my personal physician to the governor's expanded rural health services program). She praised George W. Bush as a partner in hurricane recovery, which made a lot of us kind of sick, and I imagine it didn't make her feel too good, either.

Blanco said that the first shelter community--which provides shelter housing, a library, a bank, a post office, and child care--was already set up in Monroe, and that others would soon be in place all over the state. The next step will be temporary housing, and then finally, the re-building of houses that were destroyed by Katrina. She asked displaced Louisianians to please come home, and concluded her remarks with a passage from the Book of Job:
You will be secure, and will not fear.
You will forget your misery;
You will remember it as waters that have passed away...

Read the entire text of Governor Blanco's speech.

More than 50 Louisiana evacuees die in Texas

Over 50 Louisiana hurricane evacuees have died in Texas. The causes of death include heart attack, cancer, and suicide. One man died inside the Astrodome, and a woman died in the Astrodome parking lot.

Senate votes against establishing independent panel to investigate Katrina

Senator Hillary Clinton's proposal to establish an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate what went wrong with the response to Hurricane Katrina was killed by the Senate today. Clinton wanted the panel to be like the September 11 Commission, which she is apparently under the delusion of believing was a successful attempt to get to the bottom of that disaster.

"We are blessed"

That was the message Governor Kathleen Blanco gave Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina first hit. The storm had changed from a Category 5 to a Category 4, was moving very quickly north, and had shifted eastward before landing, creating horrendous damage in Mississippi. Until the levees were breached, Louisiana's citizens thought they had been spared a major tragedy yet again.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Your assistance is needed to help animals

This Thursday, the House of Representatives Government Reform Committee will hold hearings on the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina. Please contact the committee chairman, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, and committee member Rep. Henry Waxman of California, and ask them to allow PETA to testify at the hearings about the federal blockade of animal rescuers.

It is also a good idea to ask them to make sure that the welfare of animals is included in any local, state, or federal disaster plan.

If you live in their states, you may use Davis's and Waxman's website email forms. If you live elsewhere, you must call them:

Rep. Tom Davis: 202-225-1492
Rep. Henry Waxman: 202-225-3976

Where was Cheney during Katrina? Handling his own emergency

After Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, some of us were struck by the obvious absence of Dick Cheney from the media scene. It turns out he was very busy handling another emergency: His office called Southern Pines Electric Power Association and left two voice mail messages, ordering power to be immediately restored to Colonial Pipeline Company, which supplies power to the Northeast. The re-starting of two power substations in Collins, Mississippi delayed by at least 24 hours efforts to restore power to two rural Mississippi hospitals.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

What it's like around here these days

The New Orleans Port was opened today to let in ships with aid supplies, and three planes departed from the Louis Armstrong International Airport. If air and water tests come back okay, residents of uptown and the French Quarter may get to come into the city as early as Monday. There is a plan to convert the New Orleans Convention Center into a giant temporary mall, with Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc. selling supplies.

Pet rescuers continue to rescue animals, but residents are not permitted to come and get their pets. At this point, I do not know who is responsible for this outrage--there are simply too many rumors.

This morning, a meeting was scheduled between FEMA and the residents of Slidell. FEMA didn't show up. I was in Mandeville this afternoon, at the location of tomorrow's sceduled FEMA meeting, so I warned them not to get their hopes up.

Mayor Ray "Mr. Bush did all he could" Nagin is still confusing Jesus's death with soldiers on horseback; he continues to talk about how the "calvary" didn't come. When he isn't talking about that, he's talking about how poor George W. Bush couldn't have possibly known that a Category 5 hurricane was headed our way. Since everyone else in the United States--and most of the world--knew, it's clear we have to do something about getting George and Laura a new television set. Bush, says Nagin, just didn't have the right people telling him that we were headed for the nation's biggest natural disaster in ages. Get them all new TV's, I say.

A reporter from CBS went to one town in Louisiana where the houses had been blown into each other in groups of a dozen or so. One man searched for forty minutes for his house, and finally found a piece of it a quarter of a mile from where it used to be.

I tried to file for Disaster Unemployment Insurance online, and wound up wanting to put an axe through my computer screen, so today--assuming getting through by phone was next to impossible--I went to the Louisiana Department of Labor office in my city (DUI is a FEMA benefit, but you don't file a FEMA claim for it). The office was closed, and a sign instructed me to go to the next town's community center. I crept through traffic and finally got there, where I was relieved to find very nice, very efficient DOL staff available. The woman who helped me said she was supposed to have been laid off around the time Katrina hit, but now she was needed for a few more months.

On my way home (to make an appointment to have the car place check out my malfunctioning air conditioner), I stopped at a major shopping area on the main drag. All across the parking lot were huge tents, set up to help the suddenly homeless, or those without food and water. Behind the tents, a couple of stores were open, and people were drinking coffee and buying office supplies. Helicopters flew overhead. These were literally parallel worlds, whose inhabitants were on their respective sides by the luck of the draw.

FEMA's new direction

David Paulison, the man who brought us the anti-terrorism duct tape solution, is the new director of FEMA. Mr. Paulison is the former director of the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of FEMA.

Will the resident nickname him "Ducky"?

Will Mr. Paulison use his duct tape expertise to do something really useful?

Ignorant and incompetent--understatement is all we have

Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the morning of Monday, August 29. On the evening of Thursday, September 1--3 1/2 days later--George W. Bush, riding in a helicopter, watched DVD's of the Katrina news coverage made for him by a staff member in an effort to help Bush understand that the storm had created a major disaster.

During our evacuation, we were shocked when, at mid-week, we heard tennis star Venus Williams say she didn't know anything about what was happening on the Gulf Coast. But she had company--the alleged leader of the free world, still wiping birthday cake icing from his chin--was clueless, despite, he says, knowing there was "a storm comin'."

Quote of the week

"It's really important that as we take a step back and learn lessons, that we are in a position to adequately answer the question: 'Are we prepared for major catastrophes?' "
George W. Bush

Glenn Beck never lets us down

"And that's all we're hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones we're seeing on television are the scumbags--and again, it's not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It's just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they're getting all the attention. It's exactly like the 9-11 victims' families. There's about 10 of them that are spoiling it for everybody."

Speaking of scumbags...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Our community cleans up

Today, a crew came to get the tree off of our roof. I didn't get to see the actual removal because the owner of the company was regaling me with non-stop, manic speech-making about everything imaginable. The neighborhood has been cleared of a lot of debris in a short period of time.

This afternoon, a fiber optic cable was accidentally cut in our parish, and we lost telephone service to anywhere outside of a few miles. That problem was also fixed in a relatively short period of time.

Helicopters are everywhere. Today, a plane--I presume a military plane--flew so low over our house that items rattled on their shelves. There is an aid station at the Target store not far from us, and the National Guard is all over the place. We've had mail delivery for a few days, but today was the first day I had a chance to go to the Post Office and collect the back mail. However, the Post Office was closed, so I have to go back tomorrow, after the roof repair man comes over. Some time soon, we have to get the gutter repair man over, too.

All of the radio stations in New Orleans have personnel in Baton Rouge and are broadcasting 24 hours a day from a makeshift station. Right now, the general manager of a large New Orleans station is sharing the microphone with a woman who does a gospel program on another station. Since we have no television, I keep this station on most of the time. The broadcasters provide information, answer questions, air public service announcements, interview people, check out rumors, and help with missing persons and pets.

I haven't heard from most of my clients and haven't been able to reach them. I also haven't been able to locate people I know in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. I have tendonitis in my right elbow from using a touchpad for hours on end, and I ache all over from those nights of not sleeping when the cats went berserk at the hotel. They are glad to be home, and spent the morning growling at the tree removal men and their machinery.

Searching for Michael Brown

A while ago, a missing person alert went out on the radio for a Michael Brown. Whoever Mr. Brown is, I hope he is found soon. Hearing the alert on the radio gave me pause, however. I mean, I don't think the other one wants to be located.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who said he was waiting for the "calvary" to come, has delared that racism may have played a role in the government's slow response to Katrina. If so, he says, then "let's call a spade a spade."

There is a lot of confusion right now about coverage for mold and mildew damage. This afternoon, a rumor was going around that no one would get mold and mildew coverage, and that--all together now!--Governor Blanco is to blame.

This afternoon, thousands of St. Bernard Parish residents stormed the state capitol in Baton Rouge, demanding answers to their questions. They got answers, but they didn't like them.

Bush rode through New Orleans in a truck and announced that "the dewatering is a sign that the city is moving forward."

Filing insurance claims--the next New Orleans crisis?

The key insurance question looming in New Orleans may be whether flooding caused by the breach in the 17th Street Canal should be covered by flood insurance or homeowners insurance. Many people in New Orleans do not have flood insurance because they do not live in flood zones. However, when the levee broke, those people saw the water rise in their houses.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Thinking like Falwell and Robertson

I've decided to look at the world from the point of view of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and their ilk. It's really not that hard to do, and the conclusion is clear to me: Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama because of their legacy of lynching, obstructing voter rights, forcing black students to attend terrible schools, denying multiple civil rights to gay citizens, and promoting sexism via the Southern Baptist Convention.

Works for me.

Hurricane Katrina and the storm of Louisiana politics

By now, it is obvious to liberals that if New Orleans goes, Louisiana's liberal base goes. North and central Louisiana have always been conservative and have voted primarily Republican for a long time. The parish I live in, which is just across the lake from New Orleans, is a haven for both middle-class Republicans and deeply conservative rural families.

If New Orleans is left to die--or not reconstructed somewhat as its old self--Louisiana will automatically become all Republican. In that case, the state's senior Senator, Mary Landrieu, will be removed from office by almost anyone the Republican Party runs against her. Landrieu is a centrist Democrat who has infuriated many of us by her votes for war, big oil, and the Bush tax cuts. It helps, of course, to remember that no one can hold office in an oil state and vote against big oil. Landrieu also has a bad animal rights voting record, though that is improving a bit.

On the other hand, Landrieu has voted almost straight pro-choice (she voted for the "partial birth abortion" ban), and is an advocate of gay rights, women's rights, and rights for people of color. Her pro-choice votes come at great risk because she a Catholic and much of her voting base is Catholic. When she first ran for the Senate, the former Archbishop of New Orleans announced that Catholics who voted for her would be committing a sin.

Landrieu is also an articulate spokeswoman, whose filibuster skills have brought her to national attention. In other words, she isn't my Senator, but she's a hell of a lot better than anyone who might replace her. One need only to look at Louisiana's other Senator, David Vitter, to see how bad things can get.

It is also hepful to understand--in light of the current finger-pointing--that the bad blood between New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco is nothing new. Blanco is also a Catholic centrist Democrat (she shocked many Louisianians recently by hinting that she was troubled by the state's anti-gay rights turn, and she also issued an executive order which banned discrimination against gays in state hiring). Nagin, a Democrat, supported Blanco's opponent, Bobby Jindal, in the gubernatorial race. Jindal is an extreme right-wing, virulently anti-gay, anti church/state separation Republican darling. People looking in from the outside may tend to see Nagin as a Democrat's Democrat, but that is hardly the case.

At this point, it is hard to tell who did what, other than the obvious--that the federal government totally abandoned Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama during the crucial first days of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Right now, the scapegoat is Governor Blanco. How well Blanco did in this emergency is something we will not know for a while (it is interesting to note here that at least one member of her own staff has already leveled sexist--and totally uncalled for--criticsm at her). But whether she deserves blame may be irrelevant: She will get it anyway, because it is also important to the Republican Party that Louisiana not elect any more Democratic governors. By blaming her, Nagin is playing right into their hands.

Oh, and did I mention? Up until a few days before he filed to run for Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin was a Republican.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rehnquist had more in common with Elvis than just that Gilbert and Sullivan robe

I had forgotten about Rehnquist's Placidyl problem, but Slate didn't.


A September 11 memoir, originally published in Identity Theory, and re-printed in This Neutral Air, a collection of September 11 writing published by The Raven Chronicles.

Observing September 11

Though it is hard to see beyond the junk pile of bumper stickers, nicknames, country-western songs, T-shirts, illegal invasions, and toxic rhetoric, September 11 is a day to commemorate a very solemn occasion. Here are some poems to help us observe it:

Are We Great?
By Marian Wilson

Are we great and are we strong?
Days grow short
sorrow's long
Will we fade to dust
or ignite the dawn?

Young one runs past the crumbling walls
Looking high, then low, then ahead
he mourns.
his heart's concerned
Are we large or are we small?

Mother's lap keeps him safe and warm
He ponders television's angry songs
Soldiers ready for their hardest war
Are they brave or are they soft?

He lights a candle
to evaporate the hate
Imagines faces
that he never could place
Were they frightened
did they feel alone?
He prays the meek find heaven
as the devil does his wrong.

Flames blow out
the ashes fall
The wind of the city
dispersed them all
They leave their mark
in the rubble of the earth
Airy shadows
that grow in worth.

Frail and crippled
will we ever get along
when strong is weak and weak is strong?
Will we last or will we fall?
Are we great or are we small?

(Originally published in the Cayuse Press Book of Remembrance. Re-printed by permission)

Suicide Hijackers
By Nan Jacobs

Oh so many
Seeking heaven:
AngryMartyr wann-

But they hide
Inside the hills
Never to be free.

Languish young men!
All misled by
Dried-up hypocrites.
Enter heaven? Where and when?
Nowhere. Never! Amen.

(Published by permission)

By Joe Ivory Mattingly

with every lie
they grow

in us

with every lie
they grow

around us

the weeds within
without a word

strangle us
in silence

(Published by permission)

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge
By Diane E. Dees

On a cloudy summer evening, I cross the Brooklyn Bridge;
it is the first time I have ever made this walk.
To my left, within the mist, I see the Lady
lifting her torch, guiding me across the river.
Her light shines far beyond this native space,
shimmering across brackish waves of time.

I'm strolling at a very busy time;
so many people, coming and going, pass me on the bridge;
I have to move with care, protect my little plot of space
and adjust my rhythm to a New York walk.
Still, I can't keep my eyes off the blue-gray river,
the boats, the buildings, the harbor, and the Lady.

Beside me are some joggers and a suited lady
who hauls a briefcase, and walks determinedly, in time
to the rhythms of the boundless river.
Some teenage girls who giggle on the bridge
stop to whisper, then continue to walk,
their spirits light, their minds not on this space.

Leaning over the rail, I stare into the sunset space
at a final misty view of Brooklyn, and the figure of the Lady.
I have only about a mile left to walk,
but how the sky has changed in this kaleidoscopic time.
I watch the cars speed by me on the bridge,
their passengers paying no mind to the river.

It looks so peaceful out there on the river.
Soon, city lights will merge with stars in space,
and cast their foggy glow upon us on the bridge,
as we move farther and farther from the Lady.
And as we shift away from her, step by step, over time,
we stumble over debris left scattered on the walk.

The thousands of us who make this walk
never doubt that we will make it across the river.
I step out as people have time after time,
but then I look up and see the gaping space--
and worse--I can no longer see the Lady;
the air is thick with smoke from burning bridges.

Silently I walk the remainder of the bridge.
A sudden wind arises from the river, chilling this melancholy lady,
while the lessons of time are lost somewhere in space.

(Originally published in the Fall/Winter, 2004 issue of Mobius)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Teddy bears and hot meals aside, it's an ugly scene in Louisiana

By now, you have probably heard about how many evacuees' access out of New Orleans was blocked by the police in Gretna, Louisiana, who guarded the Crescent City Connection and refused to let anyone on foot cross it. Witnesses say the police shot their guns in the air, dispersed groups who had banded together for safety, and even confiscated their provisions. They also say that evacuees who were in vehicles were allowed to cross.

Today, there were reports of frustrated people in the Baton Rouge area looking for temporary apartments to go with their temporary jobs. These people were told--while they were staring at For Rent signs--that there were no apartments available. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and the Attorney General of Louisiana say they will go after anyone caught violating the Fair Housing Act.

Animal rescue teams have been in Louisiana for days, trying to get into houses and neighborhoods to rescue stranded pets, but only yesterday was the go-ahead given. Today, there was an announcement that the rescuers would have only 72 hours to collect animals before authorities began shooting them.

In St. Bernard Parish, the authorities are already shooting dogs. One woman told of finally leaving her house, only to hear two shots and discover that the "rescuers" had killed her pets. In all likelihood, the woman and her family had stayed in the house because of the pets. Her dogs were pit bulls, and I'm sure the killers' ignorance about the breed contributed to their outrageous behavior.

Hail Kim Clijsters, U.S. Open champion!

Tonight, in her fifth Grand Slam championship try, Kim Clijsters of Belgium completed one of the great comebacks in women's tennis by defeating Mary Pierce in straight sets to win the U.S. Open. Clijsters was out almost all of last year with a wrist injury. At one point, she was told by her doctors that she might not ever play tennis again. A second surgery was successful, and Clijsters returned to the tour and began sweeping major tournaments.

During the recent hardcourt season, she won the U.S. Open Series (Pierce came in second), which meant that she would collect double prize money at the U.S. Open. Since she won the Open, she collected $2.2 million, the largest purse in the history of tennis.

I have been a big Clijsters fan for several years, but my choice to win the Open was Lindsay Davenport. Last year, Davenport went on a hardcourt tear and won the U.S. Open Series, but suffered an injury during her semifinal match and was defeated by the eventual champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova. This year, she was injured and had to sit most of the U.S. Open Series out; at the last minute, she entered the Pilot Pen tournment and won it. Perhaps she just wasn't ready--she lost her U.S. Open quarterfinal to Elena Dementieva, a good player, but one Davenport should have beaten.

Very disappointed to see Davenport eliminated (she lost the Wimbledon final to Venus Williams in a heartbreaking thriller), I felt somewhat conflicted about the final because I am also a Mary Pierce fan, and Pierce--like Davenport--is an older player whose retirement may not be that far away. Nevertheless, I am thrilled to see Clijsters finally win a Grand Slam. Not only is she an outstanding tennis player and sometimes breathtaking athlete (she is known for the "Clijsters splits"), she is also a delightful sports personality.

Unfortunately, I was not able to watch the match on television. I tried to watch a Webcast, but was unable to get the software to work on my notebook computer, which I am using exclusively while I wait for cable service to return to my part of Louisiana. Those who saw the match say that the best part occurred when it was over: Clijsters scaled a wall and walked on the railing to get to her family in the stands.

Trees, trees, trees

Everywhere you go. It is hard to drive down my street because of the work crews moving trees and piles of sawed-off, very large limbs. I went to my office today, and was taken aback by the sight of a giant pine tree that had fallen right in front of it. There was mail in the mailbox, too, and a helicopter flying overhead. The traffic in that part of town was light.

This morning, I heard a report about a 14-year-old girl in New Orleans who found herself in flood waters up to her neck, thought she was going to drown, and swam until she found shallower waters. She kept swimming toward the street, and eventually was able to put her feet down. She walked to the Superdome, and is now in one of the major shelters. The report was unclear about where the rest of her family was, but the girl sounded remarkably strong and filled with resolve.

Waveland, Mississippi is gone. Every structure is down. A friend of mine who had a house in Waveland reports that the lower level of the house had been blown away, but the upper level was carried by the waters and landed next door, windows intact. A news reporter in Waveland said that several American flags had gone up amidst the rubble.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fatwa issued against Sania Mirza

Described as a "corrupting influence" with "indecent" clothes, rising Indian tennis star Sania Mirza is the object of a fatwa issued by the Sunni Ulema Board, an Islamic group. Mirza's tennis skirts and cheeky off-court T-shirts have enraged conservative Islamists for some time. The tennis news media, already obsessed with Mirza's clothing, will now have no incentive to back off from talking about it.

What I did for love

We returned last night from our hurricane evacuation. We have no cable, and even if we did, the local CBS affiliate has pre-empted the U.S. Open to do hurricane aftermath coverage around the clock--except for permitting the broadcast of Oprah's show.

I was so disappointed about this last night. Then I happened to go out to see if I could find some take-out food, and a little place right down the street was open. They had two giant television screens on the wall, ten smaller screens all around the walls, and seven booth screens. I asked the owner if there was any chance he'd have the U.S. Open on over the weekend, and he said he'd put it on for me--just come on in.

So today I drove there--a short trip but it took a while because I was driving against a stream of returning evacuees (today was the first official day you could return to our parish). He put on the CBS channel to the local station, and when he realized it had pre-empted the Open, he told me to come back after the rush and he'd try to get a network feed for me. The guy was just so nice.

So I came back and "watched" live Web scoring of Elena Dementieva v. Mary Pierce. I thought, well, this is really disappointing, but if I can see Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters, that will be great. I went back, and he still didn't have the feed. He told me to come back again. I went back right afer the first set started, and his brother--equally nice--asked me to wait five or ten minutes. Then he came back and said that they had requested a network feed a few times, but the satellite company had denied it. However, he said, the company was considering letting them have the feed tomorrow and Sunday. So I came back and almost went up the wall "watching" Sharapova save six match points in the second set. I knew this would be exciting, and here I was, stuck with live Web scoring.

We are going to go to dinner at the cafe tonight, and the brothers should have some news for us by then. I'm not getting my hopes up, but you never know. Also, our cable could come back on at any time, and maybe the local affiliate will even allow a CBS feed in for part of the weekend. But neither of those things is very likely.

I realize how ridiculous it sounds, being obsessed over not seeing the U.S. Open when horrible tragedy is just across the bridge, and my own yard looks like a hurricane photo feature, but there you are. Almost twenty TV sets, just down the street, and I still can't watch the U.S. Open.

Thank you, Bill Clinton and Congress

Via Stone Court, I visited Happening-Here? for a review of how the Defense of Marriage Act affect's the relationship between the government and American citizens who are victims of Hurricane Katrina.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Karen Hughes spins so hard her eyeballs pop out and land in Lake Pontchartrain

Karen Hughes began her new job as the nation's international image-builder today, and her first act was to declare that the looting in New Orleans is going to damage the United States' international image.

If I can get myself up off the floor, I may have more to say.

Katrina pet update

Rescuers have now been instructed to go into New Orleans houses with cages and collect pets.


Friday cat blogging--evacuation edition

Sometimes we liked hanging out in our tote bag
The courtyard view was quite nice
Storm tracking was out of the question
Snuggling with the sister was the best way to endure hotel life

Please remember that thousands of other pets were not as lucky as Roxie and Velma. Their humans abandoned them, or were forced by federal officials to leave them behind. Please continue to call, email, and fax your Congresspeople so that pets can be removed from houses now. Many are dead, and the rest have little time left.