Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I Take My Struggle Against Allstate To the U.S. Senate

Yesterday, amongst all of my phone messages upon returning from Nebraska, was one from Aaron Cooper, who works as Counsel to Senator Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee. It seems that the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to investigate why the insurance industry is exempt from anti-trust laws, especially in light of the unethical ways that insurers such as Allstate and Statefarm have acted in the Gulf South following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. So because of this humble blog, because Therese and I appeared on CNN telling this story, because I previously testified to the Louisiana Senate Insurance Committee back in May of 2006, and mostly because of Hurricane Katrina and being screwed by Allstate and Haag Engineering, my name came up as someone who can present a personal account of being severely mistreated by Allstate. I believe that I'll testify the morning of Wednesday, March 7th, at 9:30 AM.

As a side note, I wish I could pick up the phone and tell my dad about this. He loved to talk about legal issues, ethics, and politics. I have the sad feeling that this hole in my heart since he passed away will last for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Catching Up

I was in Nebraska for two weeks for my father's illness, death, and funeral, and I arrived back in New Orleans late last night. Now I've got 15 newspapers to read, dozens of bills and letters to address, 120 midterm exams to grade, 60 student bloggers to read, 30 phone messages to answer, and more than 1,500 emails that I have yet to look at. Thankfully most are spam. I decided to cancel the paper that I was supposed to present at the regional Society of Biblical Literature/American Schools of Oriental Research conference in Dallas next weekend. I just couldn't find time to write that paper and still get midterm grades in on time. My dogs sure missed me, and I missed them. The house is full of Mardi Gras loot gleaned by Therese and the kids. The mountain of work in front of me seems huge. Oh yeah, I have all of my dad's files and I have to try to write up his tax returns. I miss being an 18-year-old punk rocker. Life was simpler then. I just heard about someone who claimed that they never felt like an adult until their dad died, nor did they feel so lonely. That's pretty much how I feel now. It's with a heavy heart that my life goes on.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Eulogy for William M. Homan

Today at my father's funeral service in Columbus NE, I'll be eulogizing my father as follows:

I’d like to thank all of you for coming here to celebrate the life of my father, William Homan. And his was to be sure an amazing journey. Over the past several days as I’ve glanced through pictures and records from his life, and spoken at length with many of you who knew him on so many different levels, my love for my dad, as well as my pride in his accomplishments, have both increased. I could say that my father’s 75 years meant that he lived a full life, but I understand that age is relative. I used to think that 40 was a full life, and now that I’m over 40, I changed my mind. On one of the last mornings that he was cognizant, while he was very ill, my dad opened his eyes and asked “What’s on the agenda?” He still had things to do, and 75 years just wasn’t enough time for my dad.

I think we’d all agree that Bill Homan was one-of-a-kind. Some might say, as many have, that interpersonal relationships with my father were difficult. Others would perhaps go further and describe my dad using language not appropriate in this sacred church. It makes me smile to think of all the stories involving my father’s behavior that end with people shaking their heads, laughing, and concluding that though the action was grossly inappropriate in our polite society, it was vintage Bill Homan. When my father was upset with someone or something, you’d no doubt hear about it immediately. The feedback couldn’t wait. By way of example, my father didn’t like tailgaters, especially when his kids were in the back seat. So when a semi-truck would be tailgating our car on the highway, my dad would slam on his breaks, get out of the car, and storm towards the terrified truck driver cursing that said driver had endangered the life of Bill Homan’s kids. I guess in retrospect it’s a miracle that he lived to be 75, and that all three of his children are here today. This is just one of the million great Bill Homan stories.

My father was born on June 21, 1931, in a midwife’s home in Cedar Rapids, Nebraska. There was a natural disaster that day, as massive rains flooded the city. To punctuate the flood, a severe draught followed for the next several years. It was as if God were telling the people of Boone County that things were not going to be the same from that day forward. But as my father came into the world with a natural disaster, I would claim that his life ended with the opposite, sort of an unnatural blessing. I say “blessing” because my dad suffered from several diseases, and as his pain ebbed and flowed during his final eight days, we were put in the horrendous position of wishing for the timely death of someone we dearly loved. And my father’s death was “unnatural” simply because my father’s life has been based on a tenacious independence, and his mind had been one of the sharpest that I’ll ever encounter. But my father spent his last few days in a state unnatural for him, bed ridden, slowly slipping away into unconsciousness and death. I’ll remind you that it took Parkinson’s and about 10 types of cancer to slow down Bill Homan. He had the sort of grizzled toughness and determination that you can only find in Nebraska farm country.

In between my father’s birth and passing, he lived a full life. He was something of a polymath. During his 75 years, he was a son, brother, farmer, athlete, soldier, carpenter, student, real estate agent, lawyer, community advocate, husband, and friend. I was very proud when he was elected Platte County Attorney in 1999. For me he was a father and a role model. He embodied the instructions laid out 2,750 years earlier by the Judean prophet Micah, as Micah called on his fellow humans to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. My father often worked hard to make the world a better place by representing the misfortunate, in a similar vein to the readings we just heard about the vision of New Jerusalem from Revelation and the Good Samaritan parable from Luke. One of my dad’s first legal cases involved some kids who cut down an evergreen tree at Omaha’s Memorial Park for a Christmas party. Society was ready to crucify these kids as they had desecrated a war memorial. But my dad fought a hard and unpopular fight to make sure that these kids didn’t spend the rest of their lives incarcerated because of one stupid mistake. It was for hard work and high morals such as these that I proudly gave my son the middle name Atticus, in honor of my father, a good and righteous attorney. Bill Homan set high standards for all of his companions, especially his children. Like so many of his generation raised during the Depression, he was strict, frugal, and the hardest worker I know. I’m thankful that before he passed I was able to tell my father how much I love him, and how the many sacrifices he made for me over the years were appreciated.

My father was married to my mother, Julie Homan, for 24 years. Their divorce was ultimately the right decision; nevertheless, it was difficult for my father, as it was for my mother and everyone involved. I was happy that their relationship ended amicably, as my mom and dad exchanged some kind words towards the end of my dad’s life. I would also like to offer my family’s heartfelt gratitude towards my father’s friend Elizabeth Allan who helped my dad so much for his last five years. My father’s independence would have been handicapped had it not been for Liz’s devotion and companionship, so thank you.

My father passed away in the company of people he loved. My brother Jim and my sister Chris were by his bed. Chris’s nursing expertise had been especially helpful in my father’s last days. My dad’s sister Mary Jo, his brother Richard and Richard’s wife Johanna, had come to visit my dad just a few short minutes before he passed. It was as if he had been waiting for that appropriate moment to leave us. One of the last things my father heard was Mary Jo telling him that he could go now and see his mom, dad, and his brother John. I know my father was proud of his family. He loved his children, and he loved his five grandchildren very much. The part about all of this that makes me the most sad is that my father won’t be able to share with me the joys of seeing my children, and my brother Jim’s children, grow up into adults. But to Kalypso, Zane, Gilgamesh, Cedric and Lena, we’ll try to remind you that your grandfather loved you very much, and that he’ll always be with us, in so many ways.

I want to end by saying that I love you dad and I miss you so much. Thank you for being my dad.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

William M. Homan (6/21/1931-2/18/2007)

My father passed away at 1:20 PM this afternoon. I was in the room when he passed, as were my brother Jim and sister Chris, my dad's brother Dick, Dick's wife Jo, and my father's sister Mary Jo. Rest in peace dad, and thanks for being my father.

The obituary reads as follows:
Columbus – William M. Homan, 75, passed away Sunday, February 18th, 2007, at his home. Services are 11:00 AM Saturday February 24th at St. Anthony’s Church in Columbus with Father Dale officiating.

William was born June 21, 1931 in Cedar Rapids to Matt and Marcella (Goering) Homan. He graduated from Cedar Rapids High School, and then Chillicothe Business College. He served in the U. S. Army in Japan from 1952-1954. He graduated from Creighton University School of Law in 1960, and practiced law in Columbus, Omaha, and Papillion. Mr. Homan served as Platte County Attorney in 1999.

Survivors include his three children: Christine A. Homan from Omaha, Michael M. Homan (married to Therese Fitzpatrick) from New Orleans, and James W. Homan (married to Teresa Galligher) from Omaha; his sister Mary Jo Higginbotham of Council Bluffs, Iowa, his brother Richard Homan from Grand Island (married to Johanna Homan); five grand-children, Kalypso Homan, Zane Homan, Gilgamesh Homan, Cedric Homan, and Lena Homan; and his special friend Elizabeth Allan. He was preceded in death by his parents Matt and Marcella (Goering) Homan, and his brother John Homan.

Memorials may be given to the Parkinson Foundation of the Heartland ( or the charity of the donor’s choice.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Father Back at His Home

Yesterday we moved my father from his hospital room in Columbus NE back to his apartment. Last night he slept pretty good. He's just so tired, as it takes all of his energy to work his lungs to get enough air. Hospice here in Columbus has been so helpful throughout all of this. My dad now lies in a hospital-like bed in his living room. I decorated the walls with pictures from his life. Looking at these pictures, especially the ones where my dad is hugging my children, makes me sad. I was originally set to fly back to New Orleans tomorrow, but I've changed my ticket and it looks like I'll be in Nebraska now until February 26th. Thanks to all of the people praying for us and wishing us well. While my father had been suffering a few days ago, I would say that now he is as comfortable as can be expected.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Update from Columbus NE

As Valentine's day comes to a close, I'm in my father's hospital room hoping his pain comes to a merciful conclusion soon. He was much better yesterday. Yesterday I thought he might be around for a month or two at the most. Today it seems like days instead of months. He's in a great deal of pain it appears despite being heavily medicated. He hallucinates and yells for help consistently, he panics as he seems to think he is falling. Tomorrow he is being discharched to hospice in his apartment.
Later at 3am his wheezing decreased dramatically and he is sleeping pretty good now at 7am. He also no longer appears to be in pain. This is all positive and suddenly I'm back to thinking he could be around for a while. I'm amazed and humbled by this process. I'm also tired.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Father, God, and Blogs

My dad will be discharged from the hospital today. The whole situation is quite complicated. As I understand it, Medicaid would have paid for him to be admitted to a nursing home here in Columbus Nebraska for about 100 days. My brother Jim and I went to visit the two nursing homes that had male beds open. The good think would that there would have been 40 women to every man there, and my dad would have been very popular. But Jim and I decided that we would not be very happy with ourselves if we left my dad there at a nursing home. He would get very good care, but it was not the best solution. We all agree that hospice is the best way forward, and want very much for my dad to spend his last days in comfort. We saw his potential room at one nursing home. It had a view overlooking a cemetery. In fact, it was the same cemetery where my grandparents are buried. So we are looking into two options. One he stays at his apartment and we hire appropriate care. That will be expensive, but perhaps the most comfortable option for my dad. The second option is that I drive him to New Orleans and he would live with us. The worst part of this option for my dad is that he has a great companion and caregiver named Liz, and my dad wouldn't be able to see her very often if at all. We will explore these issues today. I'll spend a few days and nights with my dad at his apartment in Columbus getting all of this situated.

Yesterday at the hospital I was approached by a very nice hospital employee. He said he comes from a nearby town of Meadow Grove, and he knew my Uncle John very well prior to his passing. He said his wife reads this blog, they knew I was heading to Columbus, and that he and his family were praying for me. I was amazed and said that represented a uniquely 21st century happening, that sometimes technology can be a good thing. He said no, it was God. Maybe both are accurate.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Father's Health

My father William Homan has advanced Parkinson's and several types of cancer, but he has been fairly sharp mentally through the process. I'm thankful for that. I had a good talk with him last Friday. Then Saturday I heard from his friend and caretaker Liz that his mental health had deteriorated sharply Saturday morning, and she was taking him to the hospital. He was disorientated and didn't know where he was or who he was. At the hospital the nurses said he had a lung infection and he continues to come and go out of consciousness. He also does things like pull the tubes out of his arms. My brother Jim went to visit him yesterday. I called and Jim said my dad was sort of alert, and he gave my dad the phone. So there I am standing at Armstrong park with my dogs in costume for Barkus crying and telling my dad I loved him and I appreciated all that he did for me as my father. I spoke with a social worker today, and we're going to try to set up some sort of hospice arrangement at his apartment. I fly out tomorrow and I'm scheduled to arrive in Omaha around noon. But there is a giant snowstorm heading that way, and my dad is in Columbus, about 2 hours of small highway driving out of Omaha. My worst fear is that I'll wind up stuck in Houston's airport and they'll cancel all flights to Omaha. I'm at school now trying to finish up some lose ends relating to teaching. My colleagues here at Xavier have been very supportive of all of this, and that means a lot to me.


Yesterday we successfully completed our fifth year in Barkus. The theme was a Street Dog Named Desire. Our "float" was meant to look like the Canal Streetcars.
Thanks to Carol for the great shirts.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Impossible Empathy

Robert Dawson, a 17-year-old New Orleanian pictured above, was shot and killed yesterday. That in and of itself is a horrible tragedy, though nothing too unusual unfortunately, as we are averaging about one homicide every other day here in the murder capital of the U.S. Dawson and his mother had been living in Dallas, but had moved back to their hometown New Orleans for just four hours before Robert was shot. Prior to the shooting, he apparently had a fist fight with this 17-year-old named Clarence Johnson.

After losing the fist fight, Clarence went home. His mother, Vanessa Johnson, reportedly gave him a handgun and told him to go outside and "kill them all." I'm concerned that this part of the story is not accurate. I very much hope and pray that it isn't.

Vanessa Johnson is now in jail facing murder charges. Her son is a fugitive.

We discussed this story at length in class today. I don't think I will ever understand things like this. I want to change society, but I don't know how. Though this murder took place in my city, it represents an experience that is completely foreign to me in every respect. There were plenty of fist fights when I was growing up, but there were no weapons, and no injuries beyond black eyes and battered egos. I never thought to have a picture taken of me with a fistfull of cash in one hand and a gun in the other. We talked about society's emulation of the Gangsta image, and how early rap like Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash used to be about social justice. I asked my students to name a successful hip hop artist who represents social justice, and they said Jay-Z. I then sang "Show me what you got, little lady" and said he's a great role model if you worship money and giant Budweiser boats racing supermodel women. Some students said they were sick of people blaming rap music for our violent society. I said I'm not blaming rap music, I'm blaming people in this country for being stupid, distracted, scared, and apathetic. Society's ignorance and inaction serves the ruling elite. Every American today is talking about Ann Nicole Smith's death. With the media's help, the masses focus on distractions while the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class disappears. I heard an economist yesterday say that the reduction of the middle class can get positive results, in that people will value an education more to climb out of poverty and we'll have a more knowledge-based society. I think that is bullshit. If I truly emulated Jesus and lived my life according to his teachings as represented in the Gospels, I honestly believe that I would have to leave my cosy FEMA trailer in Mid-City and live in the housing projects. I have absolutely no idea what life would be like there. I don't know what it is like to be afraid of a rival gang doing a drive by shooting. I don't know what it is like to be illiterate because society doesn't care enough about me to give me an education. I don't know what it is like to point a gun at someone and end their life. I don't want to ever experience any of those things. But how can we make a society where nobody has to go through that?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Superintendent Robin Jarvis

Robin Jarvis, the Superintendent of the Recovery School District, is reportedly thinking about resigning. I have mixed feelings about this. Many of her actions as superintendent upset me, but to replace her might be too daunting a task, especially at this crucial stage of rebuilding. Who on earth would want her job? I think originally the idea was that the shining star Dr. Jarvis would take over as State Superintendent when Cecil Picard retired. But now Dr. Jarvis has made quite a few enemies, and politically she appears to be "damaged goods."

As a member of the group from the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization who tried and failed to charter Dibert Elementary in the Summer and Fall of 2006, and as the current president of Mid-City Charter Schools, a new non-profit trying to charter a school in our neighborhood, I had dealings with Robin Jarvis directly on a few occasions. What I remember most is her telling the City Council that she had repeatedly offered to help MCNO and work with MCNO in the charter process as the state had previously mandated. However, the opposite was true. Our community has repeatedly said that quality education, especially public education, will be key to our neighborhood's recovery. We have tried hard to have a voice in what schools open and how they will be managed. Thus far, we have been ignored. It took a very long time for the Recovery School District to even have an office in New Orleans. Instead they stayed in their beautiful Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge. I do believe that Robin Jarvis cares a great deal about education, and she definitely worked hard. Plus, the Recovery School District remains under-staffed, under-funded, and is in many ways it appears to be a straw man, a group set up to take the blame away from the state elected BESE Board. But I believe that it is Dr. Jarvis's nature to put a positive spin on just about anything. Her grilling burgers as a "can do" attitude to confront frozen food still seems like putting lipstick on a pig. And Robin Jarvis seems to tell people, especially her superiors, exactly what she thinks they want to hear. I would prefer a superintendent who is brutally honest and candidly frank. I want a leader who helps communities have a say when they try to improve our pathetic public education system. I want a leader who gets angry when 300 kids can't get into a public school, instead of one who smiles.

Mid-City Charter Schools, with the help of Education Design Management, put together an excellent application to charter a school. I worked very hard on this with many of my neighbors and colleagues. We had a great interview with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the group hired by BESE to review the applications. We are hopeful that this time we'll get a school in our neighborhood that we'll charter for five years. There are many committed and qualified people in my Mid-City neighborhood who are up for this challenge. We are supposed to hear back on February 13th about their decision. Running a school won't be easy, but it will be important. I am trying to make a New New Orleans, where children can benefit, as I did, from a great education in public schools.

Later note: Jarvis DeBerry opines on Robin Jarvis in the February 9 T-P.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Fundamental Change for Krewe Du Vieux 2008

There has been quite a bit of chatter lately in the New Orleans blogosphere about one of New Orleans' best parades: Krewe du Vieux. The parade was last Saturday night, and as usual, it was edgy, witty, bawdy, and full of satire. It represents more than any parade the true spirit of carnivale. It symbolizes for my family the start of parade season. But earlier before the parade there were many protesters, most Catholic and from out of town, who were upset about how the parade had floats that made a mockery of Jesus and Mary. Truth be told, many floats in 2005 had themes making fun of Christianity, especially Catholicism. But then again, this is a very Catholic town, and most of the members of Krewe du Vieux are Catholic. Chris Rose, a columnist for the Times-Picayune, was this year's king of Krewe du Vieux. Tuesday he wrote a piece that rode the fence, saying he had fun, but sorry if he offended anyone. Maybe the medication made him wimp out. Instead of apologizing, I say it is time to up the ante. Get Osama Bin Laden to be king next year. That would be something. Moreover, besides offending everyone who doesn't "get" Mardi Gras, Osama would also hate it. All the paper mache phalluses, the breasts, the alcohol, we'd have to duct tape him to a pole like Odysseus sailing near the Sirens.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Micah, Katrina, and Big Governments

In my Prophets and Prophecy course this morning, we discussed Micah, one of my favorite biblical prophets. Micah repeatedly calls for social justice, and condemns the ruling elite of Israel and Judah, likening their exploitations of the poor and working class to cannibalism (3:1-3). Two of my favorite biblical quotations come from Micah, one about a great day of peace, and the other about how being kind and just are better than sacrifices in God's mind:
"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (4:3).

"With what shall I come before Yahweh, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does Yahweh require of you? To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (6:6-8).

Micah comes from Moresheth-Gath, a rural area not too far from where we excavate at Zeitah. Micah clearly seems to be against big government, as it is oppressive, and subject to corruption.

Fast forward 2,700 years. Before Katrina, I was a classic big government liberal. If there was a problem, I thought, legislate it away, get a government board to fix it. That has all changed now. Maybe the four paid contractors who four different times knocked on my FEMA trailer door to paint the oven knob red changed my mind. In my opinion, local, state, and federal government has failed us, and it has created a bureaucracy that is expensive, inept, and moreover, it makes recovery much more difficult than if it were not involved. I think this excellent article by Christopher Cooper sums our situation up pretty well. But for now, please ask your congressional leaders to do away with the Stafford Act, as the government did for Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Manhattan after 9-11-2001. I still can't believe that bureaucratic bottlenecks such as this are in place. It makes me think that I'm being punished by W. for living in the great state of Louisiana.