Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Calling All Tools (Tool Lenders, That Is)

Seriously, this is a post asking for help.

Two friends are coming to NOLA from San Francisco late this weekend, leading 8 high school students on a 10-day work trip. They are coming to work on houses and give people any help they need. This is a well-coordinated trip, funded by people in San Francisco and hosted by a local organization in NOLA.

My friend, let's call her AngelFanKatie, said they were going to buy the tools they need when they get here. I told her that I thought it wouldn't be too hard to get tool sets loaned to her team. Given all of the volunteer groups who are coming here to help, it would make sense for somebody (maybe a local nonprofit) to have loaner tools available, right?

So here's my call for help: Does anyone know of any chances to get loaner tools for these kids?

Here's their list of needs:

First, they will need 10 sets that include the following:
• Tool belt or nail apron
• Work gloves
• Safety glasses
• 16-20 oz. Hammer
• 25 - 30 ft. Tape Measure
• Speed Square
• Catspaw or other nail puller
• Carpenter's pencil
• Utility Knife (retractable blade)

In addition, the two adults will each need:
• Sheet metal snips (yellow handle ones cut either hand; bring two-four
• Chalk box and chalk (at least two)
• Screwdrivers (straight blade and cross-head or Phillips)
• Handsaws (crosscut, box and keyhole are recommended)

Please forward this around. If there's nothing out there, maybe I've found something to organize for this and future groups. We'd call it the World Class Toolshed.

Since the group was planning to buy tools, I'm sure they would have no problem replacing anything that gets damaged in the work they do.

Thanks to readers of World Class New Orleans for considering this request.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Only Elaborately Trained Professionals Need Apply, Apparently

Followup on my idea that volunteers should just go out and git 'er done, regarding the search for Katrina/levee failure victims. (Can you believe I actually have to post this on May 30th?)

Anyway, I put in a call to the Texas group that's sending out pairs of folks to search the residences of missing people. No callback yet.

Second, I put in a call to the New Orleans Fire Department. (That wasn't easy. Their previos non-emergency number has been changed, and then they didn't have an operator working on Memorial Day.) Anyhow, I spoke to a very polite gentlemen who took my name and number and thanked me for my interest. However, he said, it takes highly trained "urban rescue" trained people, or something like that, to be allowed to enter these houses. I said I would be happy to be trained if it didn't involve a degree or something. He said even regular firefighters aren't allowed to do this. The guys who do it go elsewhere to be trained.

I'm just a dude, a guy, but I have a few questions:

1. Why does it take a professional to do ANYTHING at all these days? I think heart is enough for a lot of jobs.

2. Okay, so only trained people should be doing this. Great. Let's get EVERY FREAKING TRAINED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY in here on a rotating basis. I hope to God we're doing that. I have a feeling we're not. Which means that the last person killed by the failed levees will be discovered in 2020.

3. Something's seriously wrong with our society. Our region is in the midst of the greatest, most widespread disaster in our nation's history. No one has called me ONCE for any kind of volunteer work at all. I have sought such work and have found it and have performed it. No one has asked me for anything. Something is wrong. A society that can no longer ask its citizens for sacrifice is doomed to fail.

The Worst Thing I've Read in Weeks

This is sick. Really sick. From an article in the New York Times on Ivor van Heerden and his new book:

To many in Louisiana this outspokenness has made Dr. van Heerden a hero. But at his university it has gotten him called on the carpet for threatening the institution's relationship with the federal government and the research money that comes with that. Last November two vice chancellors at Lousiana State — Michael Ruffner, in charge of communications for the university, and Harold Silverman, who leads the office of research — brought him in for a meeting. As Dr. van Heerden recalled in an interview in Baton Rouge, La., the two administrators — one of whom controlled his position, which is nontenured — said that "they would prefer that I not talk to the press because it could hurt L.S.U.'s chances of getting federal funding in the future."

If you have a minute, read the article in the link above; it's simply shocking. Van Heerden is getting criticized because he's making the Army Corps of Engineers uncomfortable. You know, saying crazy things like this:

"Nature's given us a second chance," [van Heerden] observed. "Katrina was the warning. Katrina showed us a lot of our weaknesses." Now is the time, he added, for dirt, concrete and steel. "We've got to hope and pray that before we get anything like another Katrina, that we've raised the levees, armored them and built the necessary floodgates."

Let me be blunt: you administrators at LSU are going to put the lives of my children and wife and me at risk, because you're afraid of losing federal dollars? You don't want a leading expert on flood protection TELLING THE TRUTH in public because you're afraid of the Army Corps of Engineers?

What is also deeply troubling about this is that the fears of the two gentlemen from LSU have the ring of truth. I actually am worried that speaking the truth will lead to punishment by legislators from other states.

An additional question: with the money still held up in Washington, who cares? Could the U. S. Congress and the President be any more punitive than they are being right now with the pace of help? Actually, let's not call it help anymore. Let's call the federal dollars "reparations."

Indeed, now is the time for dirt and concrete and steel.

UPDATE 6/2/06: Okay, I've calmed down, so I've edited this to eliminate the name-calling. Also, in today's T-P, one of the aforementioned gentlement from LSU claims that he did not try to silence Dr. van Heerden. (Link not available right now. I'll put it in when it pops up.)

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Great Way to Spend 38 Minutes Or So

Thanks to 2millionth for this fantastic link. NPR's Talk of the Nation spent more than half and hour with Robert Bea, Ivor Van Heerden, and David Daniel, perhaps the three leading scientific/engineering experts on what happened with Katrina and the levee failure. You can listen to streaming audio at the link.

As 2millionth says, getting flood protection right in south Louisiana "isn't a matter of charity to 'prop up a dying city.' It's a committment that a country makes to its citizens."

In other words, it's a commitment we make to ourselves and one another. As I've said before, what the world saw happen to us is coming soon to a theater near you, thanks to the whims of nature (goaded on by our climate-tampering ways) AND by the cheap, uncoordinated approach to flood protection in this country.

Don't believe me. Check that link and listen to the guys who spend their lives studying this. (By the way, do any of these fellows sound like crazy idealists? Nope, they sound like hard-core realists, and they ALL make the case that flood protection for south Louisiana is necessary and possible.)

Who are the real patriots? The scientists/engineers who want our country to be second to none on this issue? Or the "leadership" who oversaw the mere restoration of the levees to where they were before? You know, those "leaders" who are trying to make it all better with words instead of dollars and smarts and passion.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Different Kind of Drive-By

For several months now, as I've brought my son to school in the morning, I've driven past 3008 Banks Street. Not that I've noticed which house is at 3008 Banks Street.

Now I found out that I've been driving past the location of a deceased and missing Katrina/levee failure victim. A dead body has been in that house for months, as I've driven by thinking about what I had to get done on any given day, looking for signs of hope--at 40 miles per hour--in a devastated neighborhood.

Enough is enough. We have a lot of able-bodied, caring people back in the city.

Is it time to organize a gruesome version of the Katrina Krewe? A group of people (I'll join, reluctantly, if I can wear serious equipment) to search every freaking abandoned house in the city, to make sure we find all the folks who drowned or starved or dehydrated to death?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New York Continues to Support a Fellow World Class City

From today's editorial in the New York Times:
The rationale against the city's rebirth hinged upon the notion that such damage could not have been prevented and would not be preventable in the future. We are trained by disaster films to see results like those as unavoidable, somehow preordained. What this report says clearly is that much of the death and destruction in New Orleans was a result of human failings, not nature's fury.

While efforts to shore up the battered levee system continue,large parts of it are still vulnerable. We owe it to New Orleans to get it right because there will be a next time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Let's Remember Something

Da Po Blog makes a great point:
Remember how New Orleans became a Chocolate City. Chocolate wasn’t added. The Vanilla left. And African-Americans do not share the same majority in the surrounding parishes:
Jefferson – 23% black
St. Bernard – 8% black
Plaquemines – 23% black
St. Tammany – 10% black
After the floods, almost all of Chocolate City’s residents were forced to leave. New Orleans’ population percentages today are a result of the Chocolate leaving and only the Vanilla coming back.

(In that last sentence, I think he overstates the case. The parts of Orleans Parish that are functioning relatively normally--the sliver by the River--don't feel much "whiter" to me than they used to.)

Da Po Blog's main point is spot on, however. I have had discussions with former Orleanians (now Kennerites or Westbankers or Northshorians) who remember "how the city used to be" and who are probably upset that Nagin was re-elected. I'm can hear exurban types in other parts of the USA saying that Nagin re-election just shows how New Orleans doesn't deserve help.

I agree that we need to remember why New Orleans became and is and will be for some time a Chocolate City. White people ran away--from black people, urban density, older housing stock, congested streets, and other things.

Humid Haney's great Tshirt and motto (So Far Behind, We're Ahead) crystallizes the bright future that we can pursue. The generations who ran away from New Orleans proper are now inhabiting some of what they and their parents fled: (sub)urban density and congested streets. And when they want to feel like they're part of something, they come back to New Orleans for concerts, parades, food, bars, Da Zoo, Da Quarter.

Now gas costs three bucks a gallon, so it's pretty expensive to keep fleeing. And it turns out that older housing stock actually lasts a lot longer than the stuff that people are buying in the outer rings of cities (e.g. which flooded houses do you think fared better after Katrina--the 80 year-old places in Mid City, or the 40 year-old places in New Orleans East? My money is on Mid City.)

I'm rambling, but it's worth it to give a shout-out to Da Po Blog.

Blame Is Only Useful If It Leads To Good Levees

Yet another report shows that New Orleanians have been defrauded by the Army Corps of Engineers. As will be shown in an upcoming post--inspired by helpful comments by a guy writing under the pseudonym "MikeMoser," the real estate and insurance markets were for years distorted by the intervention of the ACOE; people built and insured homes in an area that was not as safe as the government led us to believe. Thus, costs did not reflect realities.

Raymond B. Seed, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and the chief author of the report, said, "People died because mistakes were made," he said, "and because safety was exchanged for efficiency and reduced cost."

Nobody here wants to whine about this. We just want well-paid government professionals (and even-better-paid government consultants) to explain what flood protection is possible, what it will cost, and how the cost will be assessed to citizens. That's all. Then we can all make decisions about our futures.

Brief Election Comments

I haven't had much to say about the local elections, but I'll try to summarize:

1. Sugar Ray Nagin was re-elected, and the sun still rose yesterday morning. Get to work, Ray! Show that you can play well with others! He's our mayor, and I'm going to push hard, but I'm also going to defend him to out-of-state people who are Smarter Than We Are. The stereotype of Louisiana politicians is that they're corrupt. I don't think Ray is corrupt.

2. Contrary to what the Times-Picayune wanted, we now have a majority NEW City Council. This is incredibly exciting. The Council--not the Mayor--was the major source of problems before the storm, and we should congratulate ourselves for doing our job of running the rascals out. I'm giving New Orleans East and Gentilly a pass for re-electing the two Cynthias. They've been fighting for their completely devastated neighborhoods, and I can understand why they didn't go for the ABIEMO strategy. To everyone (including me): keep an eye on your council person. Make them do what we want them to do.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Texas Residents Busted in Largest Ever St. Tammany Drug Arrest

Some Texans were arrested this week in Slidell and Houston in the largest drug arrest ever made in St. Tammany Parish. What can we do to stem the tide of drugs from Texas into the New Orleans area?

Here's the story:
Federal agents are calling it the largest drug bust in St. Tammany Parish history, and Katrina evacuees living in Texas [sic] were behind it. Agents said more than $5 million in cocaine, Ecstasy and marijuana were seized at a home on Heather Lane in Slidell following a lengthy investigation.

Agents said New Orleans evacuees [sic] set up a drug pipeline from Houston to Slidell and they were watching Friday night as the $5 million drug shipment was delivered.

"The drug dealers are plying their trade and trying to profit off the misery of individual abusers. They are staying in the comfort of Houston, where there's electricity and not flooded-out homes and they're traveling back and forth to New Orleans, as in this particular case, and they're selling their misery here," said William Renton of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Nine people have been arrested so far, six in New Orleans and three in Houston. A federal grand jury will hear evidence in the case soon and indictments are expected.

Unfortunately, the headline from WDSU was "DEA Arrests Katrina Evacuees In $5M Drug Bust." That is completely misleading and feeds into old ways of thinking.

Let's tell it like it is. Those folks have left New Orleans in order to enjoy what they see as a better life in Houston. They're Texans now, and those Texans are trying to make money off the troubles of our fellow Louisianians.

Why is it the engineers and lawyers who have left New Orleans are called "Houstonians," but the drug dealers who have left are called "Katrina evacuees"?

They're ALL HOUSTONIANS. Let's get it straight.

Throw the book at the Texans.

Friday, May 19, 2006

NFL People Support Us

Sports Illustrated's Peter King has something up his sleeve (in this week's column):
I've got some plans in the works for how you can do your part to help New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Stay tuned. Might be

New Orleans has a good vibe with the NFL right now.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Be Still My Heart

Yes, the model is an attractive lady, but I'm talking about the T-Shirt. I'm ordering one very soon. I especially like Crazy Humid Haney's blurb about the shirt:
Red State? Blue State? Nope. We are a Black and Gold State! And finally a leader we can all agree upon – Reggie Bush.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Chris Matthews: Not World Class

Check out the kind of comments Matthews made to our mayoral candidates last night:
At one point Matthews sparred with Landrieu, for instance, on the question of whether the federal government bears responsibility for the failed levee system, which has been under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers for nearly 80years. “Nobody out there thinks the problems are with the levees,” Matthews asserted, but rather with corrupt local officials.

These are not the comments of a journalist who merits national attention.

These are the words of an uninformed crank.

NBC could have plucked a guy off of a barstool at Parasol's and gotten a better performance from a debate moderator.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Difficult to Argue with This

Humid Haney and colleagues have put together an impressive timeline that carefully documents the gap between our hopes for Mayor Nagin and the reality.

Sugar Ray has reminded me that it's not enough to be uncorrupt (it seems as though he's basically not in it to help himself or his friends). You have to possess the ability to get things done.

I'm a Self-Respecting NOLA Blogger . . .

. . . and so I must link to this.

Oh, and this.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Brief, World Class Dialogue

Rep. William Jefferson: "I will not resign."

Mr. Clio: "You're not foolin' anybody."

We're cleanin' up World Class New Orleans. Lady Jalila Jefferson of the House of Jefferson will be next to go.

Would somebody fix the thermostat?

Look, something's wrong. For the second straight week in May, I wake up in New Orleans to no humidity, blue skies, and morning temps in the lower 60s.

This happened last year too.

Now New England is getting deluged again.

I know weather trends are notoriously hard to figure out, but my gut tells me this ain't right.

The L.A.-style weather in La. is nice, but something's wrong. We should be sweating it out right now, losing the 8 pounds we gained in beer and crawfish bread last weekend.

Sure wish the President seemed interested in climate change and the effect on coastal areas.

The picture below is not from St. Claude Avenue. It's from Peabody, Mass. My sympathetic prayers go out to our fellow citizens. We're wit' ya, Red Sox Nation.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Reggie Bush Field

Saints running back Reggie Bush is donating the money needed to re-sod Tad Gormley Stadium.

I am so ready for the Saints' season to start.

In a related note, Mr. Dennis Couvillion of Metairie points out in a letter to the T-P that #5 is essential to Bush's uniform, as that number has life-altering signficance for us in New Orleans:

The National Football League should grant an exemption to allow Saints running back Reggie Bush to wear his college jersey number, No. 5. Every time he steps on the field his number could serve as a reminder to the nation of our need for Category 5 hurricane levee protection.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wait. This Can't Be Real.

A guy got arrested for cleaning up the streets of the Ninth Ward.

Yep. That's right. Here's the story:

The Louisiana State Police insurance fraud unit picked up Charles Jacob, 48, on a warrant from St. James Parish for seven counts each of conspiracy to commit theft and possession of stolen property, Sgt. Ricky Guhman said. Jacob, owner of Jake's Auto Crushing in Avondale, is accused of taking his portable car compactor to a Convent auto shop owned by Carey Watis. There he crushed vehicles that Watis had towed off the streets of New Orleans, and the two men then sold the scrap to salvage yards, receiving about $150 per vehicle, Guhman said. Watis, 42, of Convent, was booked April 10 with felony theft after a tipster alerted authorities that he was towing vehicles from New Orleans without the consent of owners or insurance companies. Guhman said investigators found 47 stolen vehicles on Watis' property.
So let's get this straight: Everybody's yelling at the state and city governments to come and tow away flooded cars. Here comes an enterprising guy doing it to make a little cash, and he gets arrested because he's towing cars "without the consent of owners or insurance companies."

Um, shouldn't the owners or insurance companies have taken care of this MONTHS AGO? If they haven't taken care of the flooded cars by now, they have lost any claim on anything. Git 'er done. Let anyone who wants the things get them out of here as fast as possible.

We'll bill the owners or insurance companies the next time they need something from the government, like a driver's license or a rate increase from the state insurance commission.

NOTE: The Times-Picayune really is reverting to its old stupid self. Note how they repeat the state's canned language of calling Mr. Jacob's actions a "scheme." That's not a scheme. It's a plan, a vision of better things for himself and our fair city.

MORE CRUCIAL NOTE: Mrs. Dr. Clio has "gently" reminded me that she pointed out to me the story that followed the original April 10 arrest. At that time, Mrs. Dr. Clio said (as I do here, in a subconscious act of plagiarism) that the guy should've been hired, not arrested. I deeply regret not giving Mrs. Dr. Clio a hat-tip. Believe me. I regret it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How to View Those Flooded Cars

Much has been made (e.g. by Mr. Shinn) of the previously flooded and now really gross cars that sit all over the streets, underpasses, and commercial parking lots of New Orleans. The subtext of most of the questions and complaints is, "Gee, Nagin (or Blanco or Bushor FEMA) ougta do something about all those cars. Clean the place up!"

I want the cars gone. However, I want to point out a key factor.

Those cars belong to individual human beings, who have now abandoned them. Each of those people has left a 4,000 pound piece of trash on our streets. No one seems to be pointing this out.

Let's stop being stupid Americans for a minute and state what ought to be obvious. A car is not a consitutional right. A car is not a vital organ, part of who you are as a physical being. A car is a thing that you buy and use. You are responsible for it.

The people who own the cars need to get them off of our streets NOW.

Oh, you don't want to? Okay. We'll do it for you. NOW.

However, the next time you go to renew your license, buy a car, get a brake tag, or renew your registration, you will get a bill that you must pay on the spot. Whatever it cost us to remove your car, YOU MUST PAY.

If you don't pay the bill on the spot, you don't get whatever it is that you want (license, car, brake tag, sticker for your license plate). You can't drive anymore until you deal with the consequences of your previous driving habit. Deal with it.

Cars are not vital body parts like hearts, brains, and livers. Cars are wetlands-consuming necessary evils that we tolerate until we can quit this addiction and come up with something better (bikes, public transportation, fusion-powered Jetson-mobiles, whatever).

Don't forget that crucial tenet of "All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten":
Clean up your own mess.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tracy Flick Visited New Orleans Today

I wonder if Ms. Witherspoon met OUR Mr. McAllister.

Sorry about the lack of substantive posts lately (to anyone who still actually stops by to read). Job, family, visiting friends, and Jazzfest have taken their toll on my blogging. I hope to be more consistent for the rest of May.