Monday, February 20, 2006

Wizard of Paws

Barkus rolled on Sunday. The theme: Wizard of Paws: There's No Place Like Home.
Our float displayed a felt sign saying Ding Dog the Bitch is Fed, and other signs featuring Bush as the Scarecrow, Brown as the TinMan, and Nagin as the Cowardly Lion. I was the Mayor of Munchkin City, Therese the Lion, Kalypso Dorothy with Kochise as Toto, Gilgamesh as a flying monkey (but not the king), and Mosey as the Tinman.
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Friday, February 17, 2006

Things Looking Up A Bit

Yesterday the Louisiana House nearly unanimously passed legislation that would get rid of the many local levee boards in favor of just two levee boards staffed with experts. In the past the many levee boards were corrupt and sacrificed quality for cronyism. Now the bill goes to the state Senate, where it is expected to pass easily, and then to a statewide referendum September 30th. If it passed the new system would take place on the first day of 2007. This good news came in tandem with word that the Bush Administration had put another 4.2 billion in a supplemental budget for Community Development Block Grants in Louisiana. This would give the state enough funds it would seem to be able to help homeowners rebuild or buy out their property for greenspace. So things in New Orleans are moving slow, but things are looking up a bit. And on February 10th we actually had mail delivered to our house, the first time since August 2005. Oh yeah, and next Thursday, nearly 6 months after the storm, Allstate has finally found an engineer to come see our crooked house.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Oh God...

I was surfing around and thought I'd check the National Rifle Association to see what spin they had to offer about guns following Vice-President Cheney's hunting "mishap" over the weekend. They didn't mention the incident, which didn't suprise me, but I saw that they were using New Orleans as propaganda for reducing gun control. The NRA's VP Wayne LaPierre cried "Remember New Orleans!" and said "We're gonna make New Orleans the worst nightmare the gun ban crowd has ever seen, I promise you that." It seems a few property owners who legally owned guns had them confiscated so they weren't able to protect their stuff by shooting people. And as I write this, the Louisiana Legislature it seems is not going to consolidate the levee districts despite the pleas by citizens, the federal government, and our governor. Seems as if Louisiana is shooting itself in the foot once again in the name of cronyism.

Later Note It seems gun sales are skyrocketing.

Dark, Dark Depression

Living in New Orleans these days is very difficult. There are some great things. Saturday night for example, to officially kick off our Mardi Gras season, we went with some good friends to Krewe Du Vieux, a clever and satirical group who parades through the French Quarter. This year their theme was "C'est Levee," and it was a lot of fun.

However, I learned that night that one of my friends is pretty damned depressed. Many people are. Divorces and suicides are skyrocketing. Chris Rose had a piece in the Times Picayune back in December about how Katrina keeps on killing. Wherever you look around here, there are signs of destruction and devastation. Houses collapsed, flooded family belongings piled up on the streets, even the plants are largely dead. And on the radio and television it seems every commercial is about mold, house gutting, class action lawsuits, and how companies are "rolling up their sleeves to serve the people who suffered a tragedy." People are drinking quite a bit more than usual also. I don't think I'm drinking any more than usual, but I've decided to give up alcohol for Lent. I couldn't give up alcohol during Mardi Gras. That would just be silly.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Xavier Students Write About Katrina Experiences

I ask my Intro to Biblical Studies students here at Xavier to post at least 1500 words per week to a blog. Most of their postings pertain to course material and a project they design and implement to improve the world. But after the recent tragedies that happened here in New Orleans, I asked them for the first week to blog about their hurricane stories. I found the following particularly amazing:

Kevin rode out the flooding for days in East New Orleans, one of the hardest hit areas in the city. Charnisha watched the hurricane and the flooding from her third story apartment window, and then went to the Superdome where she saw some pretty horrible things. Jassma "evacuated" to a downtown hotel where there was quite a bit of chaos, some of which involved mini-bars and kids. Diondra reports about events in Plaquemines Parish, down river from New Orleans, and Tina writes about events in St. Tammany Parish just north of Lake Ponchartrain. Nia Beachum, Erin, and Megan stayed on Xavier's campus through the hurricane and susequent flooding. After about five days, they evacuated by boats and buses. It doesn't seem that Jesse Jackson helped all that much. Finally Hieu rode out the storm with his parents and then ate some dirty rice.

There are many more amazing stories, and all of the students will tell you that the hurricane greatly impacted, and continues to impact, their lives. You can see all of their writings here (in the Week One category; note: only the postings in 2006 pertain to the hurricane.

Friday, February 03, 2006

BibleDudes Quiz

Dude, like take the BibleDudes Quiz:
My BibleDudes Quiz Score: 10 our of 10

Federal Vs. Local

Recently the federal government has launched a campaign to sink the Baker Bill. The following is from the end of an editorial that appeared in today's Times-Picayune in response to yesterday's editorial by Donald Powell in the Washington Post:
What's most distressing, perhaps, is that neither Mr. Powell nor the administration shows any recognition that our failed levees are the handiwork of the federal government. He does not seem to think that the federal government is obliged to clean up the mess that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made. He alludes to the need to help uninsured, flooded-out homeowners who lived outside the floodplain defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fair enough, but Washington's obligations don't end there. FEMA's flood maps assumed the integrity of the levees that the corps built. Many residents had reason to expect minor street flooding but never believed water would reach their gutters.

Both President Bush and Mr. Powell have argued recently that Washington has set aside $85 billion to the recovery effort. But that figure vastly overstates the amount of long-term help that greater New Orleans has received. A significant chunk of the money has gone to Mississippi. Another chunk has been spent on temporary housing, debris removal and other short-term priorities. (For some of these items, FEMA appears to have paid outrageously high prices.)

President Bush stood in Jackson Square some months ago, and he promised in no uncertain terms that this community will be rebuilt. But his administration's more recent statements look like a carefully orchestrated brush-off. In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Bush all but ignored the lingering effects of the worst catastrophe on American soil in generations. And now, with Mr. Powell's piece in the Post, the administration has gone on a public-relations offensive against greater New Orleans.

The White House is acting as though the destruction here wasn't all that bad, and that only the disorganization of local authorities is stopping a swift recovery. That presumption is willfully obtuse. Mr. Powell and the White House should stop casting about for reasons to oppose Rep. Baker's bill. They ought to get behind it or propose a workable alternative.


Some Numbers from My Neighborhood

Yesterday as I was walking home from Xavier I conducted an informal survey. I walked past 16 businesses, and only three had been opened since the flood five months ago. I also walked by 139 houses, and only five showed signs that people were living there. Much of New Orleans remains a ghost town.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Biblical Solutions

There were a few tornadoes that hit New Orleans in the middle of the night. I heard the airport suffered damage, and houses that stood through the flooding now collapses. On my walk to school I saw several downed powerlines, broken trees, and other signs of high winds. There was also water all over my desk in my office. I told my students that if we lived in biblical times, the priest would use the urim and thummim and find out who God is angry with, and then we would kill them in a public place.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of New Orleans

I, and everyone else I've spoken to in New Orleans, were shocked by the president's State of the Union Address last night. There were some good parts, such as honoring Coretta Scott King, and making it a goal to "replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." But it wasn't until 40 minutes into the speech that he referenced the largest national disastor ever to hit this country:
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency - and stays at it until they are back on their feet. So far the Federal government has committed 85 billion dollars to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris, repairing highways, and building stronger levees. We are providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived. In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child ... and job skills that bring upward mobility ... and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.

The President, like Congress, just don't get it. It is hard to get, I'll admit, and as time goes by the nation is getting "Katrina fatigue." But the first step is to come see New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in person. I think it is the least that Congress could do. To date only 55 representatives and 30 senators have visited New Orleans. And though Bush has been here several times, he has only been to the French Quarter, and Uptown, areas that didn't flood. Perhaps that's why he said on January 12th that "New Orleans is reminding me of the city I used to visit." Many people down here believe that the government continues to ignore us on purpose, as a means by which to gentrify the city. It gets more difficult by the day to prove that this theory isn't accurate.