Monday, October 31, 2005

Paris--day 9

The weather has finally improved, though many people would probably disagree with me about that. We finally got a little rain, and the temperature has dropped. It was such a relief.

Yesterday, we had a quiet day, watched the Generali Ladies Linz (that is, until Eurosport rudely interrupted it to show something else), and did some shopping. We strolled slowly, but covered a lot of territory. Today, we visited the Jardin des Plantes, next to the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle. We didn't go to any of the museum galleries, but remained outside, enjoying the rose garden, the maze, and the lovely Alpine garden. The Jardin des Plantes is France's main botanical garden, and displays a wide array of plants in a varied and gorgeous environment.

After we visited the gardens, we strolled through the neighborhood, a section of the Latin Quarter that was new to us. Many of the shops were closed, but there were dozens of open bars and cafes. A peek in the lobby of the Timhotel was a highlight for me. Shockingly bright yellow armchairs with tiny pink and and some other color (I forget which) polka dots can be seen from across the street. The reception desk holds a large container of yellow mums and a second container of yellow flowers. The entire front and side of the reception desk is covered with botanical tiles to reflect the nearby Jardin des Plantes.

I am always a close observer of detail, but I find that in Paris, one must be extra-vigilant, for the most seemingly insignificant environment may house a treasure. We passed a bakery whose bottom window shelf displayed a cake decorated entirely in turn-of-the-century little-boy sailors.

It always seemed to me a silly romantic American cliche that French people walk around carrying baguettes, but now I see that they really do. While we were at the Jardin des Plantes, we even saw a crow carrying half a baguette. I wanted a photograph, but by the time I had the correct lens, the bird had flown away with its prize. I found it later, but by then, it was nibbling on the ground instead of walking or flying with the half baguette in its mouth.

Nadia finally wins a tournament!

Russia's talented and often self-critical tennis player, Nadia Petrova, who has been in the WTA Top 10 for a long time and who has played in five tournament finals, finally broke the curse on Sunday, defeating Switzerland's Patty Schnyder to win the Generali Ladies Linz, a Tier II event. Schnyder, a leftie, injured her left hand in the course of the match, and it is hard to know to what extent it hampered her, but I suspect the injury played a major role in the sudden, second-set decline in Schnyder's game.

I was disappointed, especially when I learned of the injury, for I am a big Schnyder fan. I wish it had been a fairer contest. However, I am very pleased to see Petrova finally win a title, something she has deserved for a long time. Only a couple of weeks ago, she lost a Tier III final in Bangkok to teenager Nicole Vaidisova.

Last week, Schnyder was defeated by world number one Lindsay Davenport, another of my favorites, in the Tier I Zurich Open. The good news is that Schynder has regained her highest-ever ranking of number eight in the world.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

House bill restricts voter registration drives

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would restrict the ability of non-profit organizations to conduct voter registration drives. The measure appeared as an amendment tacked onto a bill providing increased regulatory oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Paris--day 7

We have covered a lot of ground--literally--having walked the streets of Paris until we thought we might drop. The Jardins du Luxembourg quickly became a favorite destination; it would be difficult to not feel at least somewhat cheerful there, with the magnificent trees shimmering with light, the fountains, the urns of flowers, and the little remote-controlled boats.

Since I last wrote, we have visited the Cathedrale Notre-Dame, and we returned to the Champs-Elysees, the Tuileries, and the Arc de Triumphe to take night photographs. We spent much of today at the gallery at the Grand Palais, where we saw an exhibition of Viennese painters: Klimt, Schiele, Moser, and Kokoschka. It was a very large exhibition, and included both paintings and drawings.

The finest part of this weekend, however, has been spending time with my friend who lives in Geneva, and who came to Paris to be with us. She gave a dinner for us last night, and we were delighted to meet two friends she invited--both writers--who regaled us with hilarious stories about their experiences in different parts of the world. What a pleasure to have a dinner out that was not in a restaurant, but in someone's home.

Our hotel is so comfortable, it is a pleasure to sit in the beautiful, softly-lit lounge--done in varied shades of red--have a drink, and listen to the eclectic musical selections, which range from jazz (often improvisations of older American pop tunes) to blues to some very exotic selections I cannot identify.

Having never been to Paris before, I am still getting used to all of the buildings being the same color. Fortunately, it is a pleasant enough color, and the sameness provides the impression of one extended urban landscape, filled in with statues, fountains, and gardens. The flowers and trees are my favorite things; it amazes me the things that are growing profusely in late October, many of which I cannot identify. Just as in the United States, however, the are mums everywhere, and often in extremely fanciful topiary-type arrangements. Morning glory vines drape over topiary shrubs, and red geraniums in window boxes are as ubiquitous as they are in London, which, for some reason, surprised me. We have one such box attached to our hotel window.

I have noticed a major difference between American men and French men. In the United States (if you are a woman will you fully grasp this), men tend to assume physical space as a natural privilege. This is not so in France, making it much easier for a small woman like myself to get around in a crowded museum or on the Metro. I am told that such care in taking up physical space is not characteristic of Europe as a whole.

We still have had no rain, but it is humid--just like Louisiana. I preferred the first few days, when it was windy and chilly. It is around ten degrees warmer than normal, to my dismay. In the afternoons, it can get quite hot, with a burning sun, and indoor spaces are often close and uncomfortable. Even with the unseasonably warm weather, the French are walking around in sweaters and thick scarves, which seems like pure madness to me.

Saturday cat blogging--ooh la la! edition

Velma immerses herself in the French culture

(A day late because of too much Paris life? Unfortunately no--the Bloggger image upload function was disabled yesterday.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Farewell, Maggie and Silvia--you each had a great run

Two wonderful WTA veterans, Maggie Maleeva and Silvia Farina Elia, have played their last professional tennis matches, much to the sadness of tennis fans all over the world.

Maleeva is the youngest of the three Maleeva sisters, who put tennis on the map in their native Bulgaria. For the last 26 years, there has been a Maleeva on the WTA tour, and all three sisters had distinguished records. Maggie, who had to fight her way back into the top of the rankings after a serious shoulder injury, eventually reached a ranking of number 4 in the world. She won ten WTA singles titles, including the 2002 Kremlin Cup, and five doubles titles.

Farina Elia's career was an unusual one in that she was on the tour for ten years before she became an elite player. Ranked as high as number 11 in the world, the Italian player's claycourt skills made her a joy to watch, as she elegantly lobbed and spun her way through matches. Farina Elia won three WTA singles titles and nine doubles titles, and was on Italy's Fed Cup and Olympic teams.

Both players will be missed by their many fans.

Unlike American women, women in Iceland protest their employment status

Thanks to Salon's new Broadsheet for the news that in commemoration of the 1975 women's strike, 60,000 Icelandic women took to the streets for Women's Day Off on Monday. Since women make only 64.15% of what men make in Iceland, when 64.15% of the workday was over, at 2:08 p.m., they walked off their jobs. In Reykjavik, shops and banks were shut down when the women left their posts.

Paris--day 4

The forecast was for rain here almost non-stop; we have yet to see a drop. Today, in fact, the sky was clear and it was too warm for my tastes.

I cannot get used to the luxury of turning on Eurosport almost any time of the day, any day of the week, and seeing WTA tennis. In the U.S., we can watch only on weekends, except for the Grand Slams. I happened to put on the TV earlier this evening, when we returned to the hotel after a day at the Louvre, and Kveta Peschke was beating Elena Dementieva, to my great delight, in the second round of the Generali Ladies Linz tournament in Austria.

We spent most of the day in the Louvre, where it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We concentrated on Dutch and French paintings (these included Vermeer's The Lacemaker and The Astronomer), and also took in a few other things, including the Mona Lisa. So far, we have walked everywhere--the Champs-Elysees, the Eiffel Tower (the lines were too long, so we didn't go to the top), Saint Chapelle (right near our hotel), and the Musee Rodin. Tomorrow, we are probably headed back to the Latin Quarter and to Notre Dame.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

28% of Americans would not vote for a woman for president

This post at Pandagon makes me so sad I can't even comment on it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bonjour, dear readers

We are in Paris, where it is cloudy, windy, and beautiful. Rain was forecast, but so far the city has remained dry. We are still kind of jet-laggy, and spent most of yesterday getting settled. While I was collapsed with exhaustion, I watched most of the Zurich Open final, and though I usually cheer for Lindsay Davenport, this was one I wanted Patty Schnyder to win. Patty was very impressive in the first set, but couldn't go the distance against a very tough Lindsay Davenport.

We are staying in a Brit hotel that has the loveliest hotel lounge I've ever seen. The Internet connection did not work in either our room or the lounge, but after struggling with it for hours, the management finally got it to work, at least in the lounge.

The rumor here is that Chirac's hospital stay was due to a very mild stroke; they are calling him "the sick man of Paris."

We have walked and walked and walked and will continue walking great distances throughout our stay.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bush campaign paid large legal fees to Harriet Miers' law firm

George W. Bush's gubernatorial campaigns paid $163,000 to the Texas law firm of Locke, Purnell, Rain and Harrell during 1998 and 1999. At the time, U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Harriet Miers worked for Locke, Purnell, which later merged with another firm to create Locke, Liddell & Sapp. The White House, citing attorney-client privilege, refuses to release details about the legal work done for Bush.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

The WTA has a serious health crisis

First, the great Justine Henin-Hardenne contracted a virus that put her out of play for a year, and made her feel, at times, that she would never be able to do much of anything again. Vera Zvonareva's game decreased significantly in quality, and it turns out that she, too, had a serious virus. Australia's Alicia Molik--who worked for years before getting herself to the upper part of the rankings--contracted an ear infection and was out for months. Her comeback has been unsuccessful, she is still ill, and she has announced that she is leaving tennis for now, with hope that she can heal and eventually return to the tour.

Henin-Hardenne announced this week that, because of a hamstring injury, she is finished for the season, and she is expected to give up her slot in the Year End Championships. Henin-Hardenne is also very cautious about getting run down and having her viral infection return.

Amelie Mauresmo, known for both her fitness and her postive attitude, announced this week that she "can't stand anymore." World number 4 Mauresmo suffered big defeats in both Moscow and Zurich, a signal that something was very wrong. In an interview with L'Equipe today, Mauresmo said she had no more energy, and was considering withdrawing from the Year End Championships.

U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters was out for about a year because of a wrist injury. Serena Williams has been plagued with multiple injuries for the past couple of years. There have always been injuries in women's tennis, but not like this. Top players are constantly sidelined because of injuries now. The tour has taken its toll on the players, and something needs to change.
Justine Henin-Hardenne at the 2005 Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Henin-Hardenne won the tournament, marking her comeback from a long absence (except for a quick trip to Athens to win an Olympic gold medal). She went on to win the 2005 French Open. Her service game is still not what it used to be, but should be improved by the 2006 season.

Too much Kool-Aid will make your face turn purple

I met a woman this afternoon who told me our governor is an idiot. I asked her why she thought that, and she said, "What do you mean? She failed to order anything we needed before Katrina hit." I asked her how she could have possibly interpreted the documentation that way. She looked at me with a blank stare. "I read all the documents," I told her. "She ordered everything in plenty of time. She's still waiting for most of it." "Have you even read the documents?" I asked, knowing the answer. "Well, no," she said.

Not content with that failure to brush aside facts, she then told me--wait for it--that she felt sorry for Michael Brown. "He did a good job in Florida--they must have a better governor." "Jeb Bush is their governor," I reminded her." "Yes," she said, "he must be better." "He's George W. Bush's brother," I reminded her. She stared at me blankly again.

She did allow, however that Senator Landrieu, who is way too "liberal" for her to ever vote for, is doing a very good job for the state.

Friday cat blogging--exotica edition

Roxie looks out the bay window from her spot on an old teacart filled with African violets. Reproduction Victorian plant misters line the window ledge.

Heat from the plant light makes the cart a toasty spot for relaxing

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Blogging to slow down even more

I am going on vacation, so blogging will be sporadic. Good for my arm, though. Regular blogging should resume in a couple of weeks.

Environmental groups sue U.S. Navy over sonar training

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Cetacean Society International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the League for Coastal Protection, and Ocean Futures Society and its founder and president Jean Michel-Cousteau filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy toay because of the Navy's continual use of mid-frequency sonar in training exercises. The suit claims that the sonar frequencies injure and kill whales, dolphins, and other marine animals, and that the Navy refuses to implement common sense precautions that would eliminate the damage.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why can't there be someone I can like in contemporary, "hip" films?

Last week, I finally saw Closer. From everything I'd read, I figured I wouldn't like it, and I didn't, though I was captivated by Natalie Portman's wonderful performance. But just as in We Don't Live Here Anymore, the makers of Closer wanted me to be drawn into a film about four hopelessly defective people who ranged from disurbed to repulsive. At least in We Don't Live Here Anymore, the Laura Dern character was somewhat sympathetic for her honesty. Besides, any film with Laura Dern in it is worth seeing.

But it isn't just these two films. The producers of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind wanted me to care about the underdeveloped Jim Carrey character, and furthermore, wanted me to accept the fact that he was deeply drawn to a woman wrapped so loosely, she could unravel at any moment.

The worst of them was probably Sideways, a film about a neurotic, self-absorbed, pretentious, alcoholic loser and his road trip adventures. Bogged down with pre-adolescent humor, with no one in it to like who wasn't played by Sandra Oh, Sideways assumes we would suspend disbelief long enough to accept that a smart, attractive woman would be attracted to a man whose very presence on the screen made me want to run out of the theater. I was especially disappointed because Alexander Payne made one of my favorite films of the past several years, the viciously hilarious Citizen Ruth, starring Dern in the role of her career.

I'm not looking for a romantic comedy (though I appreciate the rare good one). I don't need a happy ending. I just want at least one character whom I can tolerate.

"You attack and run away like women"

It is bad enough that there is footage of American soldiers burning the bodies of members of the Taliban. Such an act is not only offensive to Muslims, but is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

But to literally add insult to injury, the soldiers also revealed both their misogyny and their homophobia in the insults they hurled at surviving fighters:

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Brits race to become as crazy as Americans

Check out What Do I Know?'s list of terror-fighting incidents which have involved the stripping of people's civil liberties.

When the opposition comes, it's the work of the devil

That's what an evangelical Christian woman said in an NPR feature about the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. A man said he would have preferred someone with judicial experience, but if he had to choose between an evangelical Christian with no experience and an experienced secular jurist, he would prefer the evangelical Christian.

I am not in a position to judge whether Harriet Miers intends to use her religious beliefs to change law; the point is that some of the people interviewed for the feature believe strongly that it is Miers' duty to do so. There are relatively few soldiers in the culture war: Most Americans are doing what they do best--not paying attention. But for those involved, one of the hallmarks of the battle is that both camps believe they are losing it. (As long as we keep hearing how "ultra-liberal" CNN is, we can measure how different our perceptions are.) As a liberal, for example, I find it totally amazing that the Christian right thinks it has no power in this country.

If, as the woman quoted says, opposition to the Miers nomination is the work of the devil, then it is indeed true that the devil is full of trickery, since much of the opposition is coming from conservatives.

He wore tight pants and was flirty

So no rape conviction can be considered.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

No more oversight of Iraq spending

While Congress clamors about potential misuse of post-Katrina funds, $140 billion of Iraq war spending is not being monitored. The Department of Defense Inspector General's auditors were pulled out of Iraq in 2004. The criminal investigation unit, which investigated charges of price inflating, double-billng, kickbacks, and phony shipments, was disbanded exactly a year ago.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Quote of the day

"Time and time again, it seemed, the president was able to zero in on the most difficult aspect of an issue and provide exactly the direction needed."
Harriet Miers on George W. Bush

Monday, October 17, 2005

NYC police arrest 90-year-old blind woman

Because if they didn't, the terrorists would win.

Warning: Gay people may appear on interior design shows

In a moment of apparently radiant insight, American Family Association chairman Tim Wildmon has discerned that sometimes, gay people talk about interior design.

Aglow with this knowledge, Wildmon warned his "Today's Issues" radio listeners that even seemingly benign networks like HGTV and Animal Planet have actual homosexuals talking to Americans about gardening, pets, and where they should place their chintz sofas. Wildmon shared this gem by agreeing with a caller who said that "you really, really, really have to watch what you are watching on TV"--you might see lesbians! You might hear gay men!

Tim, honey, stay away from C-Span, for God's sake.

My first post-Katrina trip to New Orleans

The little I saw of Jefferson Parish looked kind of messy, but that was all. I went to uptown New Orleans, where the strangest thing was the lack of traffic, and especially the absence of the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar. The few cars had smooth passage, and there were plenty of parking places. Only one coffee shop was open in the neighborhood I was in, and when I walked up the steps, New Orleans' best known bookseller was holding court on the porch. I got my coffee and sat outside--the weather was lovely--and I was soon reminded of why we love New Orleans (even those of us who hate it, too): I met a woman who had lost her house and everything in it--but she had saved her 147 tiaras.

I found out that a woman I know is living in a tent in Jefferson Parish. Down the road from her are a number of empty FEMA trailers.

In Pensacola, Florida, There are many FEMA trailers that FEMA never managed to distribute to evacuees in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan--shocking, I know. They could easily be moved to Louisiana and Mississippi, also.

A lot of the debris has been picked up in uptown New Orleans, though there is still quite a bit on the street. I saw several moving vans.

It turns out that the pumping station employees in Jefferson Parish were evacuated far away (too far away, no matter what the reason) because there was only one safe house available. More are being built, but the construction has been slow because the money has had to come out of the parish budget--the Bush administration has refused to fund them.
Most uptown structures fared well, but this cafe near the river was shattered

An injured tree on the Audubon Park golf course

Useless refrigerators line the streets of uptown New Orleans

A sea of temporary signs at the end of St. Charles Avenue. All parishes are permitting temporary signs for now

Sunday, October 16, 2005

On race, gender, and nominating unqualified Supreme Court justices

George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Thomas, despite being a judge, was considered totally unqualified by his peers. Conservatives did not object to his nomination.

George W. Bush has nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and many conservatives are objecting loudly.

Is the Miers nomination easier to object to because Miers has never been a judge, or is it easier to object to because Miers is a woman and Thomas is African American? Conservatives (and liberals, for that matter) often do a dance around criticizing African American appointees and officials, but they appear to have few qualms about criticizing women.

The same conservatives who did not publicly object to Thomas's nomination, despite his lack of qualifications, also remained silent when Senator John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, created (he later admitted it) a campaign of lies to discredit Dr. Anita Hill. Danforth, a liar and a character assassin, was later awarded with several prestigious appointments, and no one in Congress or the media objected.

Will the current Bush administration resort to similar tactics if the Miers nomination runs into a lot of trouble? The Thomas confirmation is proof that they can.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Frustration over FEMA is at about the level it was before

Louisiana's parish leaders cannot get a straight answer from FEMA about anything. They are either told "That's not my job" or they are given instructions that are in direct conflict with the instructions they were just given by another FEMA staff member. The biggest bone of contention now is over temporary housing.

On Thursday, FEMA did agree to change its stupid-ass rule that there would be no housing subsidies for the families of workers who are living in trailers in New Orleans. Under the new rule, if an employee has to commute to the trailer, then her or his family will continue to get the FEMA housing subsidy.

Things are no different in Mississippi, unless you hear Governor Haley Barbour tell it. According to him, everything is going really well.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Better living through ergonomics

Since my injury was caused by one-hand over-use of a touchpad (during evacuation), now that I am back at my desktop computer, I have found a partial solution by switching to a mouse I can use with my non-dominant hand, and I am using the keyboard whenever I can. I am continuing to use cold packs and raise my arm whenever possible. My arm is healing again.

Tom Wolfe shows his true colors

Literary icon Tom Wolfe, interviewed on "Real Time" tonight, revealed his nostalgia for the "good old days" when young men asked young women out on dates and paid for the dates. Though he allowed that "it might be better" for the females that they don't "have to wait by the phone," it was obvious that he thought the old arrangement was a good one. It just goes to show you that having a literary mind doesn't mean having an open mind.

Neither Bill Maher nor his panel said anything about Wolfe's sexist remarks.

David Vitter: poster boy for poor impulse control

Louisiana Senator David Vitter has been sniping at senior Senator Mary Landrieu since he was elected. By now, everyone is aware that they jointly presented the $250 billion aid package that was soundly laughed out of town by some Congresspeople and the news media (Landrieu fought back, as is her way). In fact, despite the joint presentation, each filed several versions of the bill.

When Landrieu became incensed that Louisiana would have to pay back a $750 million loan package when no other state has ever been required to do so, Vitter went on the attack, saying that the longer she filibustered, the more time was running out for the House to act on the loan package. Landrieu held her ground in protest, then finally gave up.

Some people say that the payback qualification was included because of Louisiana's reputation for corruption. I certainly don't deny that Louisiana has a history of corruption, but this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black that is so absurd it explodes the entire kitchen. The Bush administration has refused to give Congress any accountability for the money it has spent on Katrina damage, but Congress has chosen--so we hear--to focus on Louisiana. And even if the administration had been forthcoming with Katrina expenditures, it doesn't take away from the fact that it is one of the most corrupt machines in the world.

On Wednesday, when he was speaking to the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee, Vitter said he would be willing to sign a recall petition for Governor Blanco, and then responded to praise for his own post-Katrina behavior by saying "It's easy to look like a giant in a land of pygmies."

Actually, it's easy to look like a total butthole in a land of people who are trying to get something done for Louisiana.

Most of the news from New Orleans is bad

Louisiana, in its wisdom, does not license insurance adjusters; therefore, anyone off the street can take a quickie course, show up, and ruin your life. And that is exactly what is happening. An insurance adjuster called United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans today to say he had met some "adjusters" who had no idea how to measure a house; he had to show them. Two weeks ago, they were blackjack dealers in Mississippi. They took a six-day course to learn how to do the paperwork, and that was that. When he saw them, they had declared a house in New Orleans East that took four feet of water as "livable." This, they said, is what they had been instructed to do. Unless the windows were blown out, the house was to be declared livable.

A few streets in the Lakeview section of New Orleans sustained no Katrina damage--the rest are disasters, with houses completely demolished. But there are still some possessions to be retrieved by homeowners. At least there were--looters are helping themselves. And just in case you're wondering--these houses, unlike the ones in New Orleans East, are owned by white people. They are wondering where the law enforcement officers are (I know, I know--they're beating people up in the French Quarter).

Cleanup subcontractors in New Orleans are angry because their pay was arbitrarily docked and their retainer was cut in half by Slidell firm OMNI Pinnacle. They also say that OMNI Pinnacle officials refuse to address their concerns.

The good news is that half of the Twin Spans Bridge reconstruction was completed 17 days ahead of schedule, so people in Slidell can go back and forth to the city without backing up the Highway 11 bridge or using the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The other half of the bridge will be completed some time in January.

Good news about Louisiana's giant oaks

The good news is that the oaks in New Orleans are in better shape than previously thought. According to arborists, though there has been a terrible loss of limbs, when the trees green out in the spring, they will look different, but not ugly.

The remaining Dueling Oak in City Park (its partner was uprooted by a hurricane in 1949) had a lot of internal limbs taken out by Katrina, but is still standing. And Louisiana's largest oak (and Naitonal Champion on the National Register of Big Trees), Seven Sisters, located in Mandeville, survived fairly well.

Note to the Philistine who commented on a previous post about the oaks: "Oh no, not the oaks. Must be G.W's fault! Get out the checkbook, save the oaks!"--you better believe we would get out our checkbooks if it would help. Louisiana has some of the most beautiful trees in the world, and we love them. They are treasures to us.

Friday cat blogging--Roxie needs a brand new bag

Roxie relaxes in a grocery bag

Hangs out in it
And then she and her sister trash it

Hail Mary!...Pierce, that is

One expects that even the most confident tennis player, when she is at 0-6 in a third set tiebreaker, is looking forward to a massage, a quiet dinner, and the flight home...maybe a little rest before beginning practice again.

Not Mary Pierce. Down 7-5, 4-6, 6-6 (0-6), one point from the handshake and packing for her flight, went on to win 8 consecutive tiebreak points and defeat Elena Likhovtseva. She advances to the semifinals, where she will play Dinara Safina, who took out number 1 seed Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals.

No WTA player can feel as bad as Likhovtseva today. Ouch.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Park Service managers now must be screened for Bush loyalty

The National Park Service is made up of civil service employees, and though they will continue to be called civil service employees, things have changed. Today, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility issued a directive which requires all mid-level and above managers to be approved by a Bush administration political appointee.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

New Orleans filled with dead and near-dead animals, many abandoned by their humans

As of yesterday, volunteer animal rescuers in New Orleans have been ordered, presumably by law enforcement, to stop breaking into people's houses to rescue stranded pets. The volunteers are continuing to break into houses they believe to have been condemned. The idea that breaking a window to try to save the life of a starving, frightened creature during the aftermath of a disaster is somehow wrong is the height of insanity.

What the rescuers are finding is horrible. There are animal corpses everywhere, both inside and out. One dog was found dead in a heap of debris; one was hanging dead from a fence, strangled by his leash. Some are alive, but so weak that they cannot stand up. The animals on the street are so frightened that they have become very aggressive, and rescuers have to be very careful while feeding or handling them.

A very large number of people did not return to the city to get their pets, but left them, yet again, to die . First abandoned to starvation and drowning by FEMA and then again by their human companions, they are yet another expendable population in the City That Care Forgot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

As though Katrina's homeless didn't have enough to worry about

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office asked that firearms be banned from the new FEMA trailer park in Baker, Louisiana. The request was made because the trailer walls are thin, and it is estimated that a discharged bullet could go through several trailers. The request wasn't necessary, however; it has been a FEMA policy for years to ban firearms at FEMA facilities such as the one in Baker.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Today is the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard

Americablog reminds us. So does "Scarecrow."

Why aren't mainstream churches at the forefront of the animal liberation movement?

Few things are as cruel--evil, actually--as factory farming, one of America's largest industries. Laboratory animal testing is also unbelievably cruel. Though many of us are opposed to any exploitation of non-human animals (as well as human animals), our consumer society makes such exploitation hard to avoid. From the jelly you eat to the wine you drink to the capsules you take--unless you are 100% vegan, which is difficult in most communities and in most cases-- animals were exploited to make the products.

Even for those who are comfortable with eating meat and who support some animal lab testing, it would seem crucial that the meat be from free-range animals and that the testing be done under the most humane standards imaginable (very rare in the U.S.). But the only ones who advocate for an end to the horrible cruelty are animal rights activists.

Why are mainstream churches not part of this movement? While physical and psychological suffering of billions of animals goes on every day, the churches' response, as a rule, is to have another factory farm-driven church supper and pray for peace. Bruce Friedrich writes:

One would be hard pressed to find a political race or cause in the U.S., other than the animal movement, that does not get significant support from, especially, progressive Jewish and Christian organizations and people.

Marianne Arbogast writes that there is hope, that some church members and clergy are taking the lead in awakening the consciousness of religious America to the horrors of institutionalized cruelty. I hope she is right. We expect nothing of churches who exist to suppress women and gays, but the rest of the denominations--the ones whose mission is not bigotry--need to look at the suffering of billions of creatures who have no voice, and who desperately need peace-loving humans to demand that the suffering end.

When sisterhood was powerful

I have a book review at Mother Jones that may be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the American suffragists and what they had to endure.

Vomit-inducing quote of the day

"I respect James Dobson. He's a great man."
Terence P. Jeffrey, Editor, Human Events Online

Post-Katrina news you won't see on television

One of the biggest crises that occurred during Hurricane Katrina was the flooding of Jefferson Parish. Pump operators were evacuated, a fact that has many residents irate, but they were evacuated in order to protect their lives. Where the parish failed, however, was by evacuating them a hundred miles away, where they could not return quickly. No one is quite sure how that decision was reached, but we all agree it was a senseless one, and parish president Aaron Broussard is receiving a lot of criticism for it.

Making matters much worse was the sudden loss of communication among parish officials and field workers, and that mystery has been solved: FEMA disconnected the radio equipment and replaced it with their own cables.

In other post-Katrina news, New Orleans is dry. 224 billion gallons of water have been pumped out.

The initial estimate of the number of evacuated citizens who will make Baton Rouge their permanent home has changed from 50,000 to 100,000.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It only appears that way when you have a pinhead

"He is doing great. He has big broad shoulders."

That was First Lady Laura Bush's assessment of her husband and his handling of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and September 11. In her interview with NBC's Today, Bush went on to say that the people in Louisiana "are rebuilding their lives and other people want to help them."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Bad news

For Cynthia Simpson, who took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Not a lovely day in the neighborhood

The resident is a few miles from me right now, hanging out with the homeless at our Habitat for Humanity headquarters. When a local official said we weren't anywhere close to being rid of all the trash, he wasn't kidding.

Monday, October 10, 2005

No child left behind, though some may die in Iraq, and others may become invisible

Thanks to Louisiana Senator David Vitter, the No Child Left Behind Act contains a clause which requires schools to give military recruiters the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of high school students. As most people have heard by now, parents may opt their adolescents out of this process. However, No Child Left Behind also provides that schools that do not hand over the information are subject to losing federal funding.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Blogging to slow down considerably

My arm injury was almost healed, but has now become worse, so I have to give my arm a rest until it is better. Minimal blogging will occur while I recover.

Christian Coalition leader accused of molesting children

Thanks to Pam's House Blend for alerting me to this story, and imagine my surprise. Louis Beres, leader of the the Oregon chapter of the Christian Coalition, has been accused of sexually abusing several female family members over two generations. Because the Oregon statute of limitations on sex abuse expires after six years, only of the cases is likely to be prosecuted.

Historic and artistic treasure blown away by Katrina

Several months ago, I wrote about the exhibit, Walter Inglis Anderson: "Everything I See is New and Strange," on loan from the Smithsonian and featured (with New Orleans additions) at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Today, I was shocked and saddened to discover that most of the Anderson property in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including Walter Anderson's cottage, was turned into rubble by Katrina. The Shearwater Pottery showroom is gone, as is the vault that housed much of Anderson's work.

Anderson, who once strapped himself to a tree during a hurricane so that he could fully experience the storm, has now, after his death, been done in by one. The loss of the cottage and of the entire Shearwater area is a major one to the art world, to Mississippi, and to the nation.

Numerous historic buildings on the Gulf Coast, including the cottage where Jefferson Davis wrote his memoirs, were destroyed by the hurricane.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

New Orleans' City Park destroyed by Katrina

New Orleans has many parks, but the two major ones are City Park and Audubon Park. City Park includes the New Orleans Museum of Art, with its relatively new Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden, and Audubon Park is home to the world-famous Audubon Zoo. I have always been an Audubon Park person; for years, I lived within walking distance of the park, and a long time ago, I actually lived in the park, on an "avenue" that is really a sidewalk. Recently, the golf course at Audubon Park was greatly expanded, which I found upsetting, even though I no longer live in New Orleans. But the park remained beautiful, with its giant oak trees, lagoons, and views of St. Charles Avenue.

City Park has always been a beautiful place, too, with its rose garden, Pavilion of the Two Sisters, antique carousel, Perisytle, Popp Fountain, and gondola rides. Most of that is gone now, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. There are only eleven employees left on the site. The only good news is that NOMA has emerged intact, and only one sculpture in the sculpture garden was destroyed.

As most people have heard by now, the Audubon Zoo weathered the storm fairly well, losing only a few animals. Many of the animals have been shipped to other zoos, who are caring for them while New Orleans rebuilds, but some remain at Audubon. Several giant oaks around the zoo fell, and I assume that is true of all of Audubon Park.
Lagoon at Audubon Park

Statue of John James Audubon at the entrance to the Audubon Zoo

The concept of eminent domain suddenly has personal meaning

Except for a handful tossed into the Thames, my mother's remains are in a large and beautiful community garden in Baton Rouge. The gardener was kind enough to plant the Texas rose 'Caldwell Pink' at the site, and it has flourished there for several years.

Now there is talk that the road bordering the garden may be widened, and it if is, it may be necessary to bulldoze part of this lush garden, very likely the part where my mother's remains and rose are.
The wild Texas rose 'Caldwell Pink' blooms sparingly in September at the site

A statue of Mary at the site of my mother's remains

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Photos of hurricane evacuation

We feel very, very fortunate to have a house, despite the damage done by Katrina. I documented our evacuation and have some of the photos available here.

The way I see it, maybe Dobson could marry himself

Focus on the Family chairman, dog and child-beater, and all-around affront to decency James Dobson said on his radio show that if gay marriage were made legal, it would lead to "group marriage," "marriage between daddies and little girls," or "marriage between a man and his donkey."

This statement could involve some envy on Dobson's part since dogs, fearing extreme spousal abuse, would never marry him, and perhaps the news has spread to other quadrupeds, as well. Both Dobson and Bill O'Reilly seem obsessed with the idea of sex with barnyard animals, and since O'Reilly can't tell the difference between a bath sponge and a popular Israeli food, perhaps he needs to be especially careful.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A handy list

Those who voted against the anti-torture amendment:

Allard (R-CO)
Bond (R-MO)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Stevens (R-AK)

Outrage over Red Cross--why the surprise?

In our culture, learning what is going on in the nation and in the world is simply not a priority, and even when people do learn, their memories tend to be very short.

In Louisiana, citizens are extremely frustrated over some of the treatment they have received from the American Red Cross....

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Oh, look! White people were victims of Katrina

So far, of 747 New Orleans post-Katrina corpses examined, 35% of them are the bodies of white people.

41% are the bodies of black people, 0.4% are Hispanic, 0.1% are Asian-Pacific, and 23% are listed as "uncertain."

Most of the victims were elderly and I'm sure many were poor, too, so maybe there's nothing to see here, after all.

Oh, please...not again

What is this preoccupation with remaking really good films? Now George Clooney is going to remake Network. Network doesn't need a remake; it is brilliant and hilarious just as it is.

Once in a while, someone does a remake that is better than the original (Scorecese's Cape Fear, the second version of A Star Is Born), but most of the time, remaking a classic film is an affront to filmgoers.

Friday cat blogging--Velma attempts blogging

Picking a topic requires thought

It's hard to find the links I want

Maybe later

Liberal bloggers, ignorant of terminology, may be upset over nothing

Liberals are all excited because Harriet Miers is an evangelical Christian. This is because they are confusing the term with "fundamentalist Christian." Everyone please calm down and get your facts straight. Many evangelical Christians are liberals. Many prefer to distance themselves from fundamentalism. Evangelical Christians, as a rule, are interested in being part of the world, whereas fundamentalists retreat from it and live in their own world.

The fact that Miers is an evangelical Christian doesn't really tell us much, other than that she has a firm belief in the authority of the Bible and in the workings of the Holy Spirit.

I discover I am a simpleton and a coward

Hearing this came as quite a shock to me, since I have always enjoyed engaging in complex thought, I often go against the assumptions made by "my" side of the political schism, and I am not afraid to reject any standard, no matter how popular, in favor of my own values.

But according to Bill O'Reilly, since I am a blogger, I am a simpleton and a coward. I wonder whether I have always been one, or whether these defects came to me only in the past three years, the period during which I have kept a weblog. In March, I learned from O'Reilly that I am a terrorist. Who knows what I will learn from him next?

Of course, a lot of bloggers are simpletons; perhaps some are cowards (I know a lot of commenters are). But what word do we use for someone who threatens to kill a guest on his show--a guest who has recently suffered the violent death of his own father? Simpleton? Not really. Coward? Doesn't quite get it. How about uncivilized monster? And what word do we use to describe someone who--upset over what his guest says--tells him to "Shut up! Shut up! Shut Up!" I think that would be...ill-mannered butthole.

But what about the accusations that people who question the government are traitors? Or the assertion that all of the prisoners at Guantanamo should be executed? Or that any American can get a job earning $30,000 a year? Or that homosexuals are responsible for AIDS? Or that a loofah resembles a falafel?

Simpleton? Coward? How about ignorant imbecilic bigot?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Katrina and Rita make significant environmental impact on Louisiana

Louisiana did not need any additional environmental problems. With a rapidly disappearing coastline, a number of invasive species that have played havoc with the ecosystem, a Formosan termite crisis in New Orleans of shocking proportions, and lax pollution laws, the state had major problems before Katrina and Rita landed. Now, it will have even more.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Post-Katrina blues

Everyone has them. Some have post-Rita blues, also. I'm not sure we'll know what to do when the chainsaws are finally put away; we have become so accustomed to the sound. One of the work crews knocked our mailbox off of its post. I put it back, then they knocked the post down and threw logs onto our mailbox garden. We took one of the logs, set it upright, and stuck the mailbox on top of it, which is really rather attractive, in a rustic sort of way, but is only temporary.

I spent a few hours at the Department of Labor office this morning because my DUI claim was denied. Finally, I had to give up and leave because I had to go to work, something that many of the people there could not do. The place was full of tired people. One woman had driven from a long way on the other side of the parish because the Slidell Department of Labor office was obliterated by one of the hurricanes, and the temporary office had no computers. She arrived after noon, and was not allowed to sign up to be seen. I tried to give her my spot, but it wasn't permitted. Another woman was wheeling luggage around.

I was okay, though tired, until a man not far from me referred to the governor as a bimbo, and told the man next to him that if her opponent in the election--a far-right-wing, slick, opportunistic bureaucrat--had been elected, none of this would be happening. I'm no big fan of Governor Blanco, but if her opponent, Bobby Jindal, had won, he would have gone about his mission of placing the Ten Commandments all over the place, promoting school-sanctioned prayer, and doing his best to let women die rather than permit them to have abortions.

This afternoon, Louisiana's Insurance Commissioner was on the radio, talking about the mysterious fires that have consumed many New Orleans houses. He also knew about some people who were trashing their houses in anticipation of the arrival of their insurance adjusters. People are turning their neighbors in for insurance fraud, which is a good thing. (I am always amazed at how many "nice" people ask me to commit insurance fraud in my psychotherapy practice.) He also said he was under a whole lot of stress and was giving some thought to applying to be the director of the Arabian Horse Association.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Wal-Mart turns student in to police for doing his Bill of Rights assignment

On September 20, the Secret Service, tipped off by the Kitty Hawk Police Department, in turn tipped off by the patriots at Wal-Mart, paid a visit to Currituck County High School so they could investigate a student's civics and economics class project. The student, who identity has not been revealed, was studying the Bill of Rights (there's only so much irony to go around, I know), and had been assigned to take a photograph illustrating his rights.

Apparently, the student was under the mistaken impression that he lived in that other America--you know, the one in which you had a reasonable amount of free expression. He ripped a photo of George W. Bush from a magazine and tacked it to the wall. He stood next to the picture, made a thumbs-down sign with his hand, and took a photo of the whole thing. Then he made the mistake of taking the film to the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart to get it developed, where an ever-vigilant, Patiot Act-freak employee saw the photo and called the police. The police, exhibiting the collective brains of a Brunswick County oyster, then turned the matter over to the Secret Service.

Secret Service staff confiscated the poster and even asked the student's teacher if she didn't think it was "suspicious." She told them no she didn't, she thought it was about the Bill of Rights. They then informed her that the U.S. Attorney would decide whether the student would be indicted. He wasn't.

New report of factory farm horror, this time in Philadelphia

It was bad enough when Virgil Butler first did his report on the Tyson Chicken plant in Arkansas, which exposed horrific conditions for factory farm hens, as well as poor employee conditions. The resulting publicity made trouble for Tyson, but did nothing to change consumers' buying habits or make them demand an end to factory farm torture.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Calvin Trillin meets Gilbert and Sullivan

And it's a fortunate meeting.

Love In Action doesn't begin to describe this organization

Back in June, many of us were concerned about 16-year-old Zach, whose Christian fundamentalist parents had sent him to a Refuge camp, run by Love In Action International, a group made up of "ex-gays" and their colleages, whose mission is to remove the gay parts from homosexuals. While Zach was at Refuge, there were demonstrations held in Tennessee to protest his forced participation in an organized attempt to turn him into something other than himself.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Latest White House assessment of post-Katrina conditions

"We've done a pretty good job of uh, uh, getting $2,000 to some people, and there's a...we could probably do a better job of getting temporary housing to some people."
George W. Bush

One thing in New Orleans hasn't changed

The atrocious behavior of the NOPD. Tow truck contractors, in the city to pick up cars whose owners have made insurance claims on them, say they are being insulted and held at gunpoint by NOPD officers. The officers continue to harrass them even after seeing their FEMA papers, which are also signed by the governor of Louisiana. In other parishes, they are also being insulted and threatened, only not as much. Law enforcement officers tell the contractors to leave so that Louisiana contractors can have the jobs. The problem is, Louisiana towers already have too much work and cannot do the insurance jobs, even when FEMA towers offer to contract with them.

Blog housekeeping notes

My links list is again out of date, with non-existent blogs on it. There are also some blogs I want to add. However, until we get our cable connection back, updating will be put on hold. We are supposed to get our cable service back soon. If not, I may have to resort to cleaning up the blog via a wireless coffee house connection. There may also be some other changes, but I haven't had time to work on them.

Katrina aftermath updates--none of them pretty

There is now reason to believe that the failure of the levees was caused by the process known as "heave"--water pushing soil under the base of the floodwall away from the 17th Steet Canal and upward in an arc.

My parish president, Kevin Davis, is furious over a new FEMA lie, this one told by FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews on CNN's website. Andrews said that he tried to hire a construction company he owns to develop property "to which he has personal ties" for a large temporary housing site near Slidell, Louisiana.

Davis does not own a construction company, and he says he has no ties whatever to the property. Though I thoroughly dislike Davis's conservative politics, he is a very good parish president, and there has never been a breath of scandal about him. He is demanding an apology from FEMA. Good luck, Kevin: Get in line behind the people who are trying to get walls and toilets.

There is also mounting evidence that African American inmates who were taken out of the Jefferson Parish Prison and moved to a facility in Jena, Louisiana were insulted, beaten, forced to hold their faces against a wall sprayed with mace, and other things that make us think of that other prison over in you-know-where.

Miers led law firm that aided investor fraud

Thanks to The Sideshow for leading me to this David Sirota piece at The Huffington Post: It seems that Harriet Miers' law firm, Locke, Liddell & Sapp had to pay $22 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the firm had "aided a client in defrauding investors." Then there was another case in which the firm had to pay $8 million, also for aiding a client who committed fraud.

Miers was managing partner of the firm during both of these incidents.

Farewell, Ms. Musings

Christine Cupaiuolo's lively and informative blog, Ms. Musings, has come to an end. However, Ms. Magazine has launched two other blogs, The Smeal Report, and A new Leif.

This is also a good time to express disappointment that the excellent The Light Of Reason has also ceased publication.

The double standard that drives me nuts

Last night on the radio, the host went on and on about how upset he is that a famous steak house in New Orleans was wiped out by Katrina and probably won't rebuild. Oh, how he'll miss his steaks. In the next sentence, he told us all how disgusting it is to be cruel to animals.

That's America. People who starve their dogs--in some instances--actually have to go to court. People who torture millions of animals daily are protected by the government.

The hurricane season may be fading, but life in Louisiana is still a disaster

World-famous chef Austin Leslie may be an unofficial Katrina victim. He was rescued from his roof in New Orleans, moved to the Convention Center, then moved to Dallas, then Arkansas, and then Atlanta, where he died. We are left to draw our own conclusions.

According to Governor Kathleen Blanco, several Louisiana parishes are in danger of financial collapse.

The Louisiana sugar cane industry has suffered a $200 million loss. One farmer reports that he still has four feet of water in part of his field. Both equipment and crops were destroyed by Katrina and Rita, and one of the state's sugar refineries was also destroyed.

New Orleans' West End, a popular lakefront area known for its seafood restaurants, no longer exists.

The Red Cross opened a new center in Kenner and announced to the public its approximate location. When asked to be more specific, Red Cross officials refused because they "don't want too many people to find it."

On a more personal note, I was turned down for Disaster Unemployment Insurance for no reason at all (none is written on the rejection), but I do have until September 25 to appeal.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Note to liberals...

A 60-year-old woman who is not married is not necessarily a lesbian. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't, but please remember that many women have been known to live happy lives without benefit of marriage, just as many men have. And as of this writing, there are no rainbow trout signed up for the Tour de France.

David Cobb bows out of 2008 race

Explaining that he thinks a woman should be the party's presidential nominee, 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb has decided not to seek the nomination in 2008. Cobb was a very articulate spokesman for the party, and Bush and Kerry should both be thankful they didn't have to debate him. The rest of us have nothing to be thankful for.

Lake Pontchartrain has seen much worse than Katrina

For many years, everything imaginable ended up in Lake Pontchartrain--chemicals, sewerage, dairy farm run-off, and the consequences of shell dredging. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a determined and able citizens' group, turned that nightmare around and made the Lake clean and safe.

Twenty square miles of the lake's wetlands may have been lost in one 24-hour period because of Hurricane Katrina. This is, of course, a significant environmental crisis. But because of Lake Pontchartrain's pre-Katrina health, the lake is not expected to sustain any serious toxic damage.

Florida teacher resigns over unusual classroom punishment

Several months ago, I wrote that men who really hate other gay men--given the fear-based origin of their hatred--also hate women. And now, in--drum roll, please--Florida, we have a twist on the old punish-boys-by-making-them-wear-dresses system of humiliation. An elementary school teacher tried to force two sixth grade boys to touch knees and hold hands in front of their classmates and announce that they were gay. The teacher also told the class they were gay.

The boys' transgression was that they had mouthed words to each other while the teacher was talking to the class. The teacher has sinced resigned under fire, but, as inappropriate as his behavior was, the fact remains that the way to humiliate boys is to say that they are either girls or gay.

The garden after Katrina

It appears we lost only three plants: a potted miniature rose, a small container of ornamental grass, and a potted azalea. Meanwhile, many of the roses, which I had pruned in August in anticipation of the October flush, are covered with buds or are blooming. Antique roses are very tough. When we returned from our evacuation, a floribunda rose we had placed up against the wall, out of the sun, was blooming.

The most unusual thing I saw was the appearance of buds on the night-blooming cerius. It bloomed fairly well in June and then stopped abruptly. Now, for some bizarre reason, it's making buds in October. We had a lovely burst of bloom from the oxblood ("hurricane") lilies and the rain lilies, and then we had one more surprise. Some time during the summer, we dug up our pink torenia after it was ravaged by a rabbit. We placed it in a tub, and when we evacuated, we moved the tub to a spot in the backyard, in front of the pump house. A few days ago, we found it blooming profusely.

A tub of torenia unexpectedly bursts into bloom following Hurricane Katrina

Torenia is an unusual annual in that it will bloom well in sun or shade

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Katrina has put our hair on end

Literally. Some of us have no body left in our hair and our hair is standing on end. Extremely dry weather, you say? It's as humid as an Amazon jungle out there.

Well, maybe not. Because of the busy hurricane season, the Amazon rainforest is drier than it has ever been.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Those FEMA stories just keep rolling in

Yesterday, a woman reported that, so far, she had amassed $8,700 worth of invoices for severe Ktarina-related damage to her house. A FEMA representative arrived at the house to assess the damage and refused to go into the attic because it was "too hot" up there. Then she refused to look at the owner's pre-repair photographs. Her assessment? That the house had "no damage."

The confused and irate house owner called FEMA from a cell phone and was told to go to the agency's website. Only she has no cable connection and no land lines.

Another woman reported that when she ran out of money, she had to return from her evacuation destination. Her refrigerator was gone, and a FEMA representative offered her perishable food. The representative then said the woman was not eligible for FEMA money because "she was home."

FEMA has definitely outdone the IRS in idiocy, disorganization, and sadism. Depending on how corrupt it turns out to be, it may even surpass the Orleans Parish School Board as the most dysfunctional organization on the face of the Earth.