Monday, April 10, 2006

Beads for Bush

(Below is info on the Beads for Bush campaign. You can learn more about it at First Draft)

We've Gone Wild with Levee Beads. This is the Beads to Bush project. Let George Bush know you want the levees of New Orleans to be rebuilt. Throw some beads to the White House to let him know you want New Orleans saved. How? Read on. Also for more info see this presentation)

Mail some old or new Mardi Gras Beads to George Bush. (any ol beads will do)
Place them in an envelope and address it to:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Include this simple message:

Mr. President:
Please Take Responsibility and Set Aside the Necessary Funds for Levee Construction for our fellow Americans in Louisiana.

(Message changed 4/6/2006 due to this)
Sign it and include either a "Friend of New Orleans" or a "Resident of New Orleans"

Take a picture of your beads and/or message. (and you or pets or friends--be as creative as you like) Then send us a picture of it so we can post it
We want to chronicle this. If you have a message for the people of New Orleans include that in your picture. They really need to hear we do care.
Send your picture to

Here is our first pic of beads to be sent to Bush from spocko
bead package spocko pic
There are more pics HERE

Response To an Anonymous Commenter

(I posted this to First Draft but decided yo cross post it here)

Though I don’t post to or check the NOLA blog much anymore it was set up in a way that any comments are emailed to me. So I woke up this morning to find a new comment from the brave and elucidative “Anonymous” to a post about Mary a New Orleanian fighting to hold the Army Corp of Engineers responsible for safe levees. Here it is…
Seems to me that Mary might be wasting her time. She would be more productive actually helping some old person clean up their house or even work to clean up her own neighborhood. She is tilting at windmills. It is hard to go through such a disaster but there comes a time to get back to reality and clean up the mess instead of waiting for us to come and do it for her. The levees will be fixed and since she is not likely an engineer how is she going to know if they were fixed properly? If I lived there I would get out instead of standing around in the sun with a worthless placard.

I suppose I should put down the chair and take the time to inform the obviously ignorant fact all the anonyMouses who may be out there because more and more I am hearing similar things from them.
First…THE LEVEES ARE NOT BEING FIXED! Not to withstand another Katrina. Experts (not non-engineer Mary) who know of these things have said that the work that is being done will only protect NOLA from a Category 3 hurricane. They wouldn’t even protect NOLA from certain types of Cat 3 hurricanes (which was the case with Katrina) much less a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. In fact the Army Corps of Engineers told Congress this week that they need another $6 Billion to protect all of the NOLA area from a 1 in 100 catastrophic hurricane. Upon hearing this LA Senator Mary Landrieu was so pissed off SHE walked out of the meeting
"If you say you aren't going to protect lower Plaquemines, what's next? Lower Terrebonne? Lower Lafourche? And then what, the middle parts?" asked a visibly angry Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., as she walked out of the meeting with Powell and Lt. General Carl Strock, commander of the Corps of Engineers. "Seven months after Katrina, they still don't realize they have a bill to pay. They don't want to pay it."

That’s Mary Freaking Landrieu for Christ sakes. A Democrat that has disappointed me so many times on her votes that I’ve wanted to throw a chair at her has grown a pair Post Katrina and is telling Bush’s boy and a general where to stick it.
Now Anonymous may question....what is this “bill” of which Landrieu speaks?”
Well Anonymous, my eager “cleaner,” sit down and take some time to read this and this and this and this to learn that the levees were a federal project and the feds screwed the pooch resulting in the non cleaned neighborhoods of New Orleans of which you write. Yes people in Louisiana actually have the temerity to expect that the federal government should stand by their work and be held responsible when it fails. I’m sure in your neck of the woods the people are not so brazen. Why I bet if say due to poor engineering the overpass of the federal Interstate collapsed on your mother’s car you wouldn’t say a peep but rather get on over to the accident scene and start cleaning up. Of course one would allow you a modicum of time for the reality to come and go before we expected you to rebuild that overpass. Sounds ludicrous? Not anymore so than what you are asking of Louisiana residents. Do read on.

THE FAILED LEVEES DESTROYED 80% of NEW ORLEANS! We are not talking about a neighborhood here and there. We are not talking about a few downed trees to cut up and haul away. We Are talking about mile after mile of destroyed homes and complete loss of infrastructure and community. There are still areas with no electricity, phones, street lights or even potable water. Firefighters can not get water pressure to fight fires. Garbage pick up is spotty to none at all. The justice system is non existent. There were law students in NOLA for spring break trying to re-assemble the court docket as 7000 people languish in jails. Some have already served months more time than the sentence of their original offense would have been.

Individuals residents can not re-build the infrastructure of a city. It's why we have government remember? Tell me you don't own and maintain your own personal fire dept, police dept, sanitation dept, public works dept, legal system or school system.

Individual residents actually are in limbo from even rebuilding their own homes because FEMA can not get the flood maps completed. Flood maps determine the standards to which a house must be built. If you don’t meet the standard good luck getting a mortgage or insurance. FEMA can’t complete the flood maps without knowing how the levees will be rebuilt by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps can’t do the job without a decision from Bush and Congress. Anonymous do you get a feel for the bureaucratic red tape and outright buck passing neglect going on here? You say you “would go out instead of standing around.” People are not standing around because they are lazy. It is because there is no leadership to remove these obstacles that individuals run into at every turn of the corner..… Federal obstacles. Even FEMA admits they are holding up the re-building process. But it isn’t your problem, oh wait, unless….. Anon do you live in the United States of America? Yes? Well jeez I guess since it is your government, it’s your problem after all. That’s what that pesky “United” gets you in the the good ‘ol U.S.of A.

Finally to Anonymous the wise psychologist who says this…”It is hard to go through such a disaster but there comes a time to get back to reality”…. IT ISN’T OVER! The disaster is ongoing and these people live in that reality everyday. Let’s say you can talk of getting back to reality after you go live in theirs. You can make such pronouncements after you live with the experience of……
--The needless death of family, friends and neighbors,
--The loss of your home with diminishing hope for rebuilding in sight
--The loss of your job as your company relocated
--The knowledge that up tp 400 bodies still lie in the rubble of your city because the feds stopped looking October 3rd
--The loss of your church as the diocese or other such powers can’t afford to rebuild it
--The loss of your entire community and all that entails….your gas station, your grocery store, your favorite restaurant and coffee shop, your kid's school, your kid's park and soccer league, your friends and neighbors (who knows where they even are)

Anonymous, tell me true if this were your reality, if your city were to look like that and you and all your family were sleeping in your cars because FEMA won’t give you keys to the trailer or hook up the electricity to it and you can’t stay in a rotting molding house on which you still must pay a mortgage and you have to drive miles to even get groceries with no money because you are out of work and you didn’t have a right to complain or feel sorry for yourself because everybody else has it just as bad or worse than you….tell me true now, if I told you to just suck it up and move on …. Wouldn’t you want to sock me in the jaw for being such an ignorant, callous idiot? Of course you wouldn’t do it as you’d find yourself in a NOLA jail for what is truly an indeterminent sentence. On second thought maybe you would as jail just may be a better “reality.”

So Anonymous I hope your comment wasn’t as drive by as your commitment to your fellow citizens of the USA and you get to read this. I hope you ponder on what I’ve written. And I hope you take some action instead of standing around waiting for others to do so. No I don’t mean go to New Orleans. Instead Go To Washington. A phone call or an email may suffice. Your government is not doing its job and if you can not or will not see that then just wait because the New Orleans Reality may well come to your town. Just don’t become disillusioned with America or depressed when YOUR world is destroyed and you feel abandoned by your government and many of your fellow Americans and left to wonder…How can this be happening in America? And if you aren't willing to help and fight for Louisiana then be a MAN / WOMAN and just tell them so. If they really are not a part of the UNITED States let them know. Maybe they can hook up with someone else. Maybe the French would like them back. Just don't bash the French when they decide to make you pay more for your food and gasoline that must come through Their port now. You had your chance.

Finally I offer the words and photos of Jose. He lived in New Orleans. Though he is Portuguese he understands what America is all about better than I dare say the AnonyMouses of our land do. However perhaps because he is Portuguese he says it much nicer than I.

Video info
at original posting.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

God Is Watching Us

Here's a music video of my what I saw in the 9th Ward...
Music: Nanci Griffith

9th Ward: God is Watching Us

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Do Watch This Video

This is a superb video.

It tell the story of American Can...a Katrina story that went unreported.

Just watch it.......

New Orleans: My Home, My Life, My Love

(thanks to lb0313 for the tip)

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Scout sent me an e-mail this morning, and the text follows:

I'm going to be on WORT radio tonight to discuss the trip.It is live streamed on the internet so people can listen. I have to work today but perhaps you'd let people know. so they can hear how their money was spent ya know. lb0313 will also be on with me via hey? Have you gotten any feedback that I don't know of? In your opinion do you think people were satisfied with the results? Did you hear any negative feedback? If I get the chance I'm going to broach the left over money on air and the possibility of using it for a return trip at the 1 year anniversary. Here's the link to listen tonight.....

Please take some time to offer your feedback about Scout's blogging from New Orleans. You can do it in the comments section here.

We also had over $ 200 left over from the trip, which she would like to put into a fund toward revisiting New Orleans at the end of August to do follow-up reporting. Please let us know what you think about that idea.

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NOLA Levees..."A Production of Corruption"

Almost everyone I spoke with in New Orleans stated the most important issue facing NOLA is Levees. They want to know what went wrong so the same mistakes will not be made again. Further they want the levees to be built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane so NOLA will not be washed away again. Below the Times Picayune has a report on the controversy over what went wrong followed by an account of one woman fighting to hold the Army Corps of Engineers responsible…..
Findings by an Army Corps of Engineers-sponsored panel that the collapse of the 17th Street Canal floodwall during Hurricane Katrina was the result of an "unforeseeable" combination of events are contradicted by a 1986 research project done by the corps itself, National Science Foundation investigators said Monday.

The Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, working for the corps to investigate the levee breaches, said in its second interim report Friday that the 17th Street failure was caused by rising water in the canal that forced the floodwall to flex away from the canal, causing a separation between the wall and the levee inside the canal. Water pressure building inside the opening then exerted force on a weak layer of soil under the wall and the land-side toe of the levee, causing the layer to slip and bringing the levee down and the wall with it.
But in a sharply worded response issued Monday, two University of California-Berkeley professors leading a 34-member National Science Foundation investigation into the levee failures said the 1986 corps research make those claims "unfortunate" and "inaccurate."

Ray Seed and Bob Bea said the 20-year-old test, which included constructing floodwalls on existing levees and raising water levels to determine what pressures the walls could withstand, resulted in the same kind of collapse that toppled the 17th Street structures and flooded much of the city.

"In simple terms this was exactly the 'unforeseen' mode of failure" reported by the task force, the statement said.

When I was in Lakeview awaiting the arrival of a Congressional delegation I met a feisty woman named Mary Burns who is committed to holding the Army Corps of Engineers accountable.

levee breaks 004

She and her husband Jimmy live on the other side of the 17th St canal levee break in Metairie. Their home did not flood but her entire family lost their homes to Katrina---14 homes in all. Mary has put her energy into helping in holding the Corps accountable. She stated. “I’m so angry. Dear Lord help me with my anger. Give me a positive channel for it.” Pointing to the placard hanging off her shoulders she says, “This is it.” Angry with all levels of government Mary said, “Vote da bums out, all of ‘em, city, state and federal.” She went on to say that she has voted Republican in the past but the “Republicans will have to work hard for my vote now cause I’m pissed and angry.”

Mary who is a retired Catholic high school teacher is an outspoken force to be dealt with. When a local politician showed up Mary went over and told him, “This was a production of corruption.” She said her statement on the levee break was met with “dead silence.” The levee issue is first and foremost to Mary as well as most in NOLA. She believes the federal government made mistakes which must be determined and corrected if the city will be safe for the return of residents and businesses. But she also related other problems with FEMA, the Small Business Administration and insurance companies.

Mary had a bit of a run in at the FEMA office when her frustration got the best of her while trying to determine the status of the rental assistance request of her 85 year old parents. When told their request was under review she pressed for what that meant. The young FEMA employee Mary described as not trained for the job pointed upward with one hand saying the FEMA hire ups would have the answer. Not to be out done Mary pointed upward with both hands and asked “and where would they be.” At that point the young FEMA worker called over security to sit with Mary. She related the security officer asked if she had any knives or guns to which Mary responded…”No and it’s a good thing I don’t.”

That’s Mary but don’t get me wrong. Though angry she was one of the most humorous women I met in NOLA. I tried to imagine this woman teaching in a Catholic High School. My imagination was piqued even further when she related she taught sex ed amongst other subjectss. I didn’t have to imagine for long as Mary related she once ran afoul with the school administration for using the word ‘penis.’ With a broad grin she related that she told them “OK next time I’ll call it a Dick.” She shook her head in wonder, “Can you imagine not being able to say penis?” She answered her own question by saying Penis with emphasis several times. Mary is not one to back down.

So I suspect Mary will be present with her “Hold the Corps Accountable” placard each time a Senator or Congressman visits NOLA. It occurs to me that Mary not having lost her home is in a position to take up the fight unlike the many others who have lost all and are struggling just to face each day. But Mary struck me as a joyous woman who loves life and is a reluctant fighter. She told me before all this happened she and Jimmy spent their time dancing to zydeco music at one of their favorite clubs. I’m sure Mary would rather have been getting ready to go out to her beloved Tipitina’s than standing on a dusty road taking on the federal government. But Mary will do what she must to breathe life back into her New Orleans and like almost everyone I spoke to that means ensuring the levees are safe. It’s the first step on the road back and she has taken it. Heaven help the bureaucrat who stands in her way.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Back in Wisconsin...but there's more

I just got back home. I want to remind everyone that I have more stories to write so please keep checking out this site. It may be a day or so until I get the next story up. I have to return to my Real job tomorrow and we are heading into the busiest 5 days of the year at work. So I'll try to write what I can but I will be working some long days ahead. Enough of that. On to saying Thank You!

First off you may or may not be aware that this project was made possible by donations from blog readers. Many gave generously to pay my expenses. (I didn't take any pay) And I want to thank each of you for your donation. You made this possible. I can never thank you enough but ...Thank You.

Thank you to the other women who worked on this site...Vicki, NYMary and Erin. They took this from just a mere comment to an idea to a full fledged project. They were in the background setting up the site, taking care of the donations, supporting me and blogwhoring the heck out of the place. Thank you Wonderful Moonbats!

I want to thank all the other blogs that linked to the site. I am afraid that if I were to attempt to list you all I may leave someone out. Please know that I respect your taking the time to link and doing what you can to bring attention to the people of New Orleans. ThankYou.

And then there is lb0313. What a wonderful woman and New Orleanian. She offered her home, life and friends to a total stranger. Now we are friends and that has been the greatest gift. Without her this trip just would not have been possible...Period. She cared for me, humored me, taught me, fed me the best damn food on earth and made it possible for me to fall in love with her city. Thank you lb

Finally thank you to the people of New Orleans who trusted me enough to tell me their stories. I hope I have done you justice. And I hope we in the blogosphere will not forget you and continue to help in any way we can as you rebuild. I know I will be doing just that. You certainly deserve better than what you have received thus far.

OK this is sounding like a bad Academy Award speech so play the music and give me the hook... I just wanted to say thanks.

Finally (really) to Nancy....thank you for caring for Teddy so I wouldn't worry.

Leaving New Orleans

I'm about to drive to the airport. I am feeling sad to leave. There are so many people to thank and I will do that properly this evening from my home in Wisconsin.

I came here because I Cared about New Orleans. Now.....Well now I Love New Orleans.

I know someday I'll be back. And I know New Orleans will be back too.

Monday, March 06, 2006


A wonderful man named Ricardo Guitierrez offered to help me out down here. Today he drove me through New Orleans East and then on to Mississippi. I will be writing about Ricardo in the coming days but now I need to pack. Thanks Ricardo!

Ricardo lives in a FEMA trailer....

Close up reveals.....

BTW I haven't found anyone down here who thinks we were too hard on Brownie and owe him an apology. Just saying......

The Body Count

CNN reports they found another body in NOLA.

Before dying, the man apparently was trying to crawl out of an air-conditioning vent to escape rising floodwaters, said Dr. Louis Cataldie, Louisiana's medical examiner.

Cataldie said searchers expect to find up to 400 more bodies of storm victims still hidden inside New Orleans homes six months after the storm.

I had a post on January 19 about Dr. Caldie trying to get 400 homes searched "because authorities have consistent information about people missing from those locations." They are finally starting that search now.

Evidently the man was found in this house which had been searched and had a Zero on it. (which means no bodies found)

Do you know how many houses I have seen that look just like this one with Zeros painted on them????? I had assumed the 400 places to search were basically rubble. My God 80% of NOLA looks like that house or worse. Cataldie has said that in addition to those 400 he believes there were an unknown number washed out to sea. I shudder to think of how many really died.

When I was in Bay Saint Louis, Missississippi today I was talking with a woman who believes as do others there that they are "suppressing the death toll." She said the official toll for her county is a little over 50. But she then went on to tell of at least 5 people just within blocks of her her who died and this was relative high ground. She said she just does not believe the official count. If true I guess it's a new twist on "Bush lied and people died"......

People died and Bush lied.

This is "working hard" George

I saw a group of kids from Fergus Fall, MN working to clean debris on the beach in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi today. They were really working hard carrying out huge pieces of broken dock.

Bless their souls. Really! There are alot of such groups. In fact one contacted me. They are coming down but need a project to do. So if anyone out their needs a house gutted send me an email. I know of 23 kids ready, willing and able that will be headed your way.

I also saw a huge church run tent city where volunteers stay. Now I don't mean pup tents. These were probably 10' by 20' tents. There must have been 15 of them and then some bigger tents probably where they serve their meals etc.

I am of 2 minds on these groups. I am told after they help, such as in feed you a meal, that they do proselytize. But if you tell them you aren't interested they back off and leave you alone. Now it's great they are filling a need. However anything that is happening here is by individual residents or such groups. It's very piecemeal. There's no overall organization or plan. There's no leadership or as Geoff Coates says in post below...No Vision. The area affected by Katrina is a whole region of America which was so apparent today as I went to Mississippi. The scale of devastation is overwhelming. I just don't know how this will get rebuilt this way. It is beyond church groups, mayors and even governors. The federal government needs to get off its butt and get the show on the road here.

Come on George put your back into it like these MN kids will ya???

Oy...the freaking garbage!

This is the garbage in front of the place I am staying. I'm not sure how long it has been out there but as long as I've been here. They just don't pick it up.

And it stinks. Thank heaven there is a gate to keep the smell away from the house.

UPDATE: The folks who live here don't see this as that big a deal considering everything. So this is more's just pretty stinky.


I saw a fire today. The fire trucks are there but they can't really get water pressure so they call in the helicopters to dump water. 2 choppers circled above dumping water. This is common in NOLA....

(Sorry the pic isn't too great)

To Understand the Issues Facing NOLA.....

Watch this video. I interviewed Geoff Coates a founder of the Urban Conservancy in New Orleans. This is really a must see video to understand the issues here in NOLA. Geoff gives an incredibly articulate perspective on the media narrative of Katrina, the issues facing NOLA as it recovers and rebuilds and the country's stake in that process.

PART I (15 min)
--the media narrative of Katrina
--the status of NOLA infrastructure (what it's like living in NOLA)
--the necessity of Category 5 levee protection
--the lack of a Plan and Vision for rebuilding
--the conflation of right of return and the city footprint

Part II (13 min)
--why the rest of America should care about NOLA
--Katrina Response: shift from humanitarian to security operation
--lessons of the Gretna Bridge experience
--money to contractors not the people and the vaccuum of accountability
--what you can do to help NOLA

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Lakeview is a white upper middle class area of New Orleans. It was home to professionals such as doctors, lawyers, businessmen. There is some rebuilding here but many folks are just waiting to see what happens.

The place where the levee broke at the 17th St Canal...

"Broken Dreams"

"Beware Attack Snakes"

I had to go to the bathroom. I couldn't find any gas stations or stores open in Lakeview so I could either drive all the way back to where I was staying or use one of the City of New Orleans port a potties placed through out the area. I did use it.

They had a FEMA trailer. I didn't see many in Lakeview.

Weird sight.......A car off of Canal Blvd with books alongside on the ground and a wine rack and a book by Natan Sharansky just sitting on top.

New Orleans Cat Blogging

The Cat of the House is Louis or Louie. This is lb0313's cat. His temperment is just like my Teddy's.

Outside in the compound there are 5 outdoor cats that are basically wild cats. They were too wild to evacuate during Katrina so they stayed here in the compound. Some strangers squatted in the compound after Katrina. They camped on the porch pictured below. They built a latrine in the back yard. But they did not go inside the houses. And best of all they somehow got cat food and fed the cats. No one knows who they were to this day but the cats made it by relying on the kindness of these strangers. The folks here are very grateful to whoever they were.

The five cats are Spot, Boots, Rita, Bandit and Chevy. Chevy was adopted into the compound after Katrina. His people never came back. I was able to get pics of only 2 of the cats.

This is Boots the head tom cat here.

And meet Bandit.....

St. Bernard Parish

St Bernard Parish is a white working and middle class area. It was devastated by Katrina. It's an area that looks like any suburban area in America. There are the major roads lined with stores, gas stations, fast food retaurants and shopping centers. Almost all are closed. I saw an Ace Hardware, Home Depot and Walgreens open.

No one can live in the homes here. Some have FEMA trailers to stay in while they repair their homes. Others have moved on or are waiting.

Here's video of St. Bernard Parish......


We're having a wee bit of a network problem. I hope to have pictures and some video posted later.

Honestly I am a bit tired. I have at least 4 more stories to write. I leave Tuesday so I suspect I'll be writing some of those from home. So I hope you'll keep watching here.

We went out to eat last night at Rio Mar. It was fabulous. The folks I am staying with were friends with our waiter Trent. We never even looked at a menu. He just took care of us bringing one fantastic dish after another. I've found food, cooking and eating is a huge part of New Orleans.

We were very close to the infamous Convention Center which is right downtown. We went past it. It is completely cleaned up and it's hard to believe what happened there looking at it now.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"It's Our Lives"

"These politicians look at us like it's property. It's not. It's our lives" says Terry Baker whose house is located just across from the 17th Street Canal levee. He spoke to me while he waited with other Lakeview residents for a Congressional delegation to arrive yesterday. "I'll pull the plywood off my door to let them in. I want Congress to come in and see my wedding picture setting on the floor ruined. That was my life. It shouldn't be like this in America."

Terry, a senior buyer for a manufacturing company, approached me as I took notes interviewing another resident. Curious and a bit cautious he asked who who I was with and I explained I wrote for an internet website. Terry strikes me as someone who wouldn't have given a darn to speak to a reporter at any time in the past but it was readily evident he wanted the story of Lakeview to be told now even if it was only to a blogger.

He explained that his home had been appraised at $450,000 pre-Katrina. He got $300,000 from insurance which leaves a $150,000 gap. I asked "what does that mean for you" expecting a lesson in finance and economics from this businessman. Instead he replied as a philosopher, "It means life isn't always fair." Katrina changes people.

There's political change as Terry told me this..... "Oh and by the way I use to vote Republican til a few days ago." He says "Id always been a President Bush fan but he needs to get his butt down here." Angry and disillusioned with all levels of government he said...."The government can kiss my Cajun butt." Residents tell me Lakeview is a Republican stronghold but that may be changing.

Then there is the economic change. Terry says that this area accounts for 40% of New Orlean's tax base but it is going to be lost at this rate if the levees are not fixed. He says doctor and lawyers are leaving. Others are waiting to see what happens. "Who'll give us insurance here? Those levees didn't top. Everyone's waiting for the elevation maps. Nothing will happen before hurricane season. If they fix the levees it will come back." He relates he bought property in Metairie and has no choice but to sit on his property here for now. The NOLA reconstruction plan calls for green spaces in many areas. Terry says "People are naive if they think there will be green space for any amount of time. In 6 months or a year, the developers will be waiting and then they'll buy it all up."

Some things don't change though. With frustration he points down the street to a house in the road, "It's 6 months after Katrina and why is a house sitting in the road?" Then he points to his house..."I got a car next to my house and I don't know whose it is and I'm not paying to have it removed." Terry has left his house as it was when the levee broke. He just stares at it a while and his mood changes as he talks of his children and all the lost posessions that make a house a "home" and that accounts for one's life. I sense he'd like to show them to me but doesn't want to ask too much. I broach it by asking if I could take a picture of his house mindful also that Terry isn't a fan of the many sightseers who drive down his road each day with camera shutters clicking away. He gladly offers to take me in for a tour.

We walk carefully through the debris in his yard to the back door covered with a sheet of plywood. He grabs a hammer and prys it off. Once inside he shows me his home, his life, not his property.

He flips the pages of the ruined photo album to his daughter's picture....

On the counter he points out his sons' baseball mitts....

Family photos still on the wall.....

He goes to the master bedroom ......

This is where he digs out his wedding picture ....the one he wanted to show to Congress.
Today he'll show it to me only though.
He holds it up ......

Of course Terry wants America to see and know what has happened here.

We go outside and as he pounds the plywood back over his door he tells me how the first time back here the "emotions were overwhelming." It was also a frightening place the first time back, as he just escaped being attacked by "3 bloody and mangy dogs." I think he was more disturbed by the possibilty that he was going to have to kill them with the only protection he had with him, a machette from the garage. It didn't come to that.

It may have felt safer later when the National Guard arrived in his area but it was also surreal. Struggling for words he described it. "First time I saw that big military truck with armed soldiers in front.....I...I...I thought here? This is America! And here'd I'd been just the week before grilling out with my kids."

Terry 's property is in ruins. Feeling overlooked and forgotten like most in Lakeview, it is obvious this proud man is working to keep hold of his life as a father, husband, even as an American though everything around him challenges that. And in this shell of a property is the memory of home and how life once was.

"Something" Happening Here.....But just for Congress

I went to Lakeview today. I drove around for 2 hours checking out this upper middle class area of NOLA. I spent time taking photos but also looking for the Congressional delegation which was to tour the area today. I found the place they were to tour which was right by the 17th Street Canal levee at which a major break occurred during Katrina.

I was there almost 2 hours before the Congress folks were scheduled to arrive and I found a cleaning crew getting an area ready for their tour.

There were also a few residents there who were planning to protest for Category 5 levees. They told me they'd not seen a crew there ever before. (I didn't see any such clean up crews as I toured Lakeview) Resident Jimmy Burns told me he asked them why they were cleaning and was told by the crew foreman that "we want to show we're getting something done." I was told Congress was scheduled to arrive at 4:00 and the crew finished their work a little bit after 3:00 and left. I did talk to one member of the crew before they left who said they were "under the Army Corp of Engineers by Phillips and Gordon" (ie contractors)

The residents were angry to say the least. They felt Congress was getting a cleaned up sanitized view that does not represent what they live with each day. I will say this. I got out and walked around quite a bit in Lakeview. You have to watch your step as there is glass, nails, metal and cables. In fact at one point I tripped over a large sheared off power line. While driving I thankfully saw and avoided a 2x4 with nails protruding out. So there is a safety issue. However the residents say they deal with that everyday. Nothing is cleaned up for them. As one said "Let them get in the dirt like we have to."

To illustrate here is a photo that's typical of what I saw in Lakeview (and there's much worse)......

Here's the Lakeview for Congress to walk about....

The crew scooped up all the debris, grated the dirt in the yards and even scraped all the drives and sidewalks clean. Believe me I didn't see any section of Lakeview this clean. The video below shows the crew at work and the end result.

As it got close to 4:00 more residents showed up as well as several local news crews and a few local politicians.....

So the residents were angry as it was, over the levees and the special cleanup, but to make matters worse.....Congress never showed. I was told by a WWLTV cameraman they had just gotten to the Lower 9th ward at about 4:30. So the TV crews hung out a while then left. The residents stayed longer but one by one left as they realized the Congress folks would never get to Lakeview before dark.

In the end a few people got their property cleaned....half a dozen down, Thousands and thousands to go. Perhaps the "plan" for New Orleans ought to be to have Congress "plan" a tour of every home in NOLA. Maybe then job would get done.

UPDATE: Today's Times Picayune reports that the Congress folks did make it to Lakeview late yesterday in the end and drove down the street at which I had been. They never got off the bus......
"Of course, they all come by but they don't stop," she said. "I wish they would have stopped. I would have told them that we were not supposed to flood."

Some of the lawmakers peered out bus windows at a man holding a sign in the air along the street criticizing the Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the levees. "Get out (of the bus), why don't you," the man shouted as the bus rolled past.
Video of cleaning up for Congress....

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Destruction's Bottom Line

This post has been stirring in my head for weeks. Being here validates what I was beginning to come to realize. I read Athenae's post today with this quote from Brian Williams on Katrina...
"If this does not spark a national discussion on class, race, the environment, oil, Iraq, infrastructure and urban planning, I think we've failed," Williams said last September, speaking by cell phone from the city.

Now that covers lot of issues but I bet many Americans can find enough wiggle room in there to think it really has nothing to do with them personally. And that is what's wrong. Though I'd welcome a discussion of race and poverty, guess what? It's the wrong discussion if you're talking Katrina. There ought to be a discussion though and it does include You.... IF.....
You are white....
You are black....
You are poor....
You are working class....
You are middle class....
You are upper middle class....
You are educated....
You are illiterate....
You are Catholic or Protestant or Muslim....

Because those are the people who have taken the bottom line hit of Katrina's destruction here. It's Everyone here.
And if it can happen to them and it is still very much happening........
It. Can. Happen To. You.

Destruction in the poor black 9th Ward is horrible. But go to white working class St. Bernard's Parish. It's devastated. Go to the white upper middle class area of Lakeview. Those folks are wiped out too. They have more means to come back??? Think about how you would pay the mortgage on your $450,000 home that is nothing more than a pile of debris and also pay rent on an apartment that you now must rent...if you can find one and with no job. (BTW $350 apartments are now going for $1500 where I'm staying here). That's just your own personal hell.... there's more outside your door.

The infrastructure is devastated. And it hits Everyone. It's great to see stop lights...they are few and far between in many areas. Wonder when someone will pick up that pile of garbage outside your home much of which was the inside of your home? No one can tell you. Want a phone? Sorry for many it will be months like 6. Trying to get electricity turned on? Perhaps soon and then perhaps not. You may get mail service.... sometimes. You need to get groceries? Be prepared to drive far and wait in long lines. You have children? It's best to find an out of state relative for them to live with for this school year at least. And whatever you do don't get hurt or sick. A small injury could be a Major problem. Ambulance drivers tell of sitting outside the few "hospitals" caring for people in their rigs cause it's better than what's available inside.

But you say I don't live below sea level in the path of Hurricanes?
2 things......

Terrorist attack (maybe Osama has a notion about Des Moines)
Avian Flu (maybe it Will jump from birds to humans one of these flu seasons)

Every mayor, governor and citizen in America ought to be scared. Because the federal government was not prepared and still is not.
That ought to be our discussion.
And it very much involves you and requires your participation.
Katrina is a Cautionary Tale for all of us which we ought to be forcing the Bush administration to act upon in a myriad of ways. I know that won't happen though. So hope, pray, sprinkle fairy dust in the meantime. And as for our personal wiggle room.....

Well wiggle room the Lower 9th.
Just don't forget the same in St. Bernard Parish, New Orleans East, Gentily, Lakeview.....
and on and on and on.........


I'd like you to meet Jose Fernandes a photographer from Portugal who has lived in the New Orleans for years. Jose did not evacuate during Katrina. In the days after Kartina struck Jose moved around the city taking photographs. He spoke of photographing Miss Cecelia a 92 year old black woman whom he met. He recently went back to see how she made out.

Jose not only describes the physical devestation but poignantly tells of the loss of community. And he also speaks eloquently of America and what that means in the context of helping New Orleans. I was struck how this Portuguese man understands the significance more so than many Americans.
The devestation is important because people need to support and realize that know we are the United States of America......We are the United States of America and that means something.
That means that we need to be here for each another. And this was Louisiana's turn to be helped which is beyond our ability to help ourselves......
Watch the rest below.....
[Jose has a website at
He hopes to have his Katrina photos available soon. I hope you check them out.]

Meet Jose.......


I'm back from the Lower 9th.
I'm just going to write.
I have video but not the energy or focus to get it posted now. Later.
Staring through the camera lens spared me for the first miles as I focused on the mechanics of taping.
It just goes on and on and on and on............

And then it hits. I felt my chin tremble and my eyes water up. There are no words to it. Just emotion. Did I want to talk? Words just fail miserably in the sight of this place. I thought "I can't film this anymore." I wanted to tell Lisa "I just can't do it. Stop. I need a break." But I fought through it and kept taping. We passed more and more........
blocks of houses torn apart,
cars upside down,
wheelchair in debris,
the paintings on each house marking the search results,
0's.... good to see the zeros,
a house off it's foundation blocking the road,
dead dog painted on this house, dead cat written on the next,
someones suits hanging in a closet.
On and on and on.............
That feeling got stronger and wouldn't pass. I felt the tears coming down my cheeks now. I wanted to just throw the camera down and to hell with showing this to you guys. I wanted to look away. You can't. It's everywhere. I wanted to close my eyes. I couldn't. I can't give you analysis or perspective or even thoughts. It's just raw fucking emotion and I can't even tell you what emotion....sadness, despair, shame, anger? They're just words. This is beyond words.

I've been back an hour and my chin still trembles and the tears still come. Everyone says you need to decompress after seeing this. I didn't think it would do this to ME. I'm strong. I'm tough. Jesus how fucking wrong was I. How do you decompress? I don't know what to do the next few hours but I know it won't be work. I feel like I want to just crawl off somewhere for the rest of the day.

Now I sense an anger beginning. I don't even want to go there. It swells up....fucking George W. Bush. Who else? Everyone else? Even you? It subsides.

I'm going to go decompress....however the hell you do that. I don't want to say anything I'll regret. Forgive me if this makes no sense. Forgive me for spilling half my guts and believe me it is only half.

UPDATE: I have decompressed. I took to the couch for a nap so as to just turn everything off. Then we went out for a nice lunch. I do feel ok now.

One thing to keep in mind. It isn't just the 9th Ward. It is everywhere. You can drive for miles and miles and see destruction. I think that is important to understand.

Random Notes

I have been so busy I haven't read or heard any news. However yesterday people were talking of tapes of a video conference that Bush "participated" in. I wouldn't say people were shocked here but they were disgusted...And Angry. I wanted to check it out and so read the New York Times story. From that one learns hey no big deal, nothing new here and the awful Democrats are going to capitalize on this nothingness. I'm looking for News and read that awful accounting! They should be ashamed of themselves. I finally got the story elsewhere.

I spent well over an hour yesterday getting the rental car. That place was a mess. We rented an economy car but they gave us all they had.... a the cost of an economy car. The thing is huge. I took off and of course proceeded to get lost.It didn't help that I didn't know how to adjust the seat and steering wheel so was barely able to reach the pedals etc as I drove.

I did an interview with Jeff Coates of the Urban Conservancy last night. I'll have more on that later and this is one you must hear.

Today I am meeting with 3 people and it is the day I drive out to the 9th Ward. So watch for Alot tonight and tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Presser and a Meeting

I went to a press conference at City Hall at which District E Councilwoman Cynthia Willard Lewis announced a major "breakthrough" in the effort to provide electricity, water and FEMA trailers to the Lower 9th Ward.The obstacles to re-populating the ward have been water, electricity, places to live and debris.

The Bring Back New Orleans Commission plan calls for neighborhoods to prove they're viable, by having at least half of the residents return to an area in order to be rebuilt. Not much has happened toward that end in the 9th ward. This press conference appeared to be a beginning to address that. It will be a long precarious road ahead though. Here is video of part of the press conference but below the screen is more as I met someone.....

I had also hoped to make a contact in the 9th ward by attending this presser. It was attended by those speaking and the press and that was it. But there was one woman sitting in the gallery of the City Council chambers and so afterwards I decided to go over and talk to her.

I asked if she lived in the 9th ward and she said no. I waited to see if she would elaborate a bit and then she said, "That's my daughter." This was Mary Willard the mother of Councilwoman Cynthia Willard Lewis. She told me that the Councilwoman was the oldest of her 12 children. With pride she said, "She's fighting for her people." Mary told me how Cynthia had stayed here the whole time during Katrina initially staying at City Hall. Mrs. Willard had evacuated to Dallas where 2 of her children live.

Mary Willard had a striking, elegant face and though soft spoken one could sense her strength, confidence and pride in her family and herself. She teaches 9th-12th grade having started teaching in 1957. She talked of an after school program she use to do so the young people would stay out of trouble. There were once 102 public schools in NOLA pre-Katrina, she related, but now there are only 3 public and 21 charter schools. She is concerned that the charter schools will be a "dis-service" to black children. "I told Governor Blanco, " she said. As an aside she went on to speak of having given Blanco a rosary before her election...."but I knew she'd win.I'd like to see her win again. She's a beautiful woman." Then back to the schools..."there are not alot of blacks here now because of the school the summer they'll be back."

I asked about her other children...6 men and 6 women. All have attended college. She neither brags nor is pretentious but because I pressed she named and told me of each. I won't write of each but there is a son who is a lawyer in NOLA , a pharmicist in Atlanta, a daughter who teaches in NOLA, and her "baby boy...he's a judge in New Orleans." She spoke with pride of her oldest son..."you saw how they placed children on mattresses in the flood waters to get them out during Katrina? That's what he did." He did so for days and then evacuated to the Carolinas. She pointed out her husband who was at the presser and told me he had been in education....the first black principal at St. Augustine's. He's now retired from the DA's Office.

We had a nice talk and when almost everyone had left I realized I would not be getting a 9th ward contact here today. But I had met an incredible woman. She asked..."did you get what you needed?" I said oh yes and thought to myself and then some. She looked at her daughter and then back to me and said..."now you know where she gets her grit." Yes I do, Yes I do.

"How'd You Make Out?"

Mardi Gras is over now. Just some thoughts though. People needed this Mardi Gras. One person who has been back since shortly after Katrina struck said that if were sitting in say Houston and heard Mardi Gras had been canceled, he wouldn't bother to come home cause he'd know that's it..the city is done.

Yesterday it was common for these folks to see friends for the first time since before Katrina. They'd ask one another..."How'd you make out?" Then they would share bits of their stories.....where they evacuated to, when they came back, the status of their homes. Mardi Gras re-united people with people and the people with their city.

One final Mardi Gras video. Walking home from the Quarter we stpped at a local hangout and so did a band who rocked the place......

Oh I do have some pics of Mardi Gras costumes I'll put up later....alot involving MRE's, blue tarps, FEMA digs and of course Brownie and Bush. But I'm off to a meeting about the 9th Ward....

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fried Chicken in the Quarter

Once we got to the French Quarter we went to Gilbert's place. His family runs a small store that sells food, beer, and sandwiches. They were able to stay open after Katrina struck. Gilbert made fried chicken (the best I ever had) in the courtyard behind the store. Pete Fountain and his band stopped in (Mr. Fountain is in the purple shirt)

Mardi Gras

We marched with the Society of St. Ann.
This is not a krewe but it is a lively bunch. We marched to the French Quarter.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Lundi Gras Party

It's a lawyer, recently retired teachers, IT folks, handymen, a musician, an environmentalist, a physicist, a student and more, all gathered for gumbo and a shrimp boil. It's New Orleans jazz and zydeco in the background as friends laugh and talk of Mardi Gras past and present. This is a Lundi (Fat Monday) Gras party in the courtyard of 2 shotgun houses behind the tall newly replaced gates of what is known as "The Compound."

Musician Coco Robichaux tells me "there's more musicians than there are gigs now. I made more money when I was a kid." But he's still playing.

Doug, a high school teacher before Katrina in Plaquemines Parish has seen 45 Mardi Gras. Now he lives in Texas but is back for his 46th. He tells me that North Plaquemines has schools up and running and has kept teachers on but that "South Plaquemines is no more." He decided to take early retirement so other teachers would be able to keep their jobs.

There is laughter and small talk but the stories creep in as does the weariness. Someone will relate a small part of their Katrina story and the usual questions are asked. "What day did you get out?" Answers are not given in dates but days of the week....That week. When they say Sunday or Thursday everyone knows exactly what date they are talking about. Tom and Coco were here for much of that week. They tell of how the animals all began howling one night. The cats, the dogs, all the animals "screamed." Coco tells of how he was stung by a bee on his eye and didn't have the heart to swat and kill it...."There was so much death. I just couldn't kill it...there was going to be too much death already."

Louis Armstrong and Ella sing in the background as everyone digs into a platter of shrimp. I'm given an ear of corn on the cob. Out of the corner of knowing eyes they watch as I take a bite. The hot spice bites back and I start blowing on my lips to cool off. We laugh as one says..."that isn't Wisconsin corn on the cob now heh." No indeed.

Tom tells only a part of his harrowing story. Their house filled with water in minutes. He swam to get their kayaks. But tossed by waves and 100 mph wind he struggled to unleash them and keep a hold of the ropes attached to them. "I knew I needed to grab something or I'd die. I could see a truck in the water below me. It was clear ocean water but I couldn't even grab an antenna from that truck. I just swam."

Gumbo is ready. They all laugh when one says "can you see next summer, the first hurricane .... there will be no one left in this town."

Linda tells me about the wonderful old Catholic Church across the street. There is the story of how a piece of the steeple had landed in front of the Compound and Linda made Lisa take it back over to the Church as surely they'd need it to restore the steeple. It wasn't necessary though as now there are to be no repairs. The Diocese won't be re-opening the church. They can't afford to. They say they lost 3 or 4 churchs in this neighborhood that way now. And they wait for more of the steeple to fall.

Ray Charles' "Baby What'd I Say" comes on and everyone joins in on the Aah's and Ooh's.

They are weary. Many depressed. There is worry for one amongst them that hasn't been eating and is losing weight. Well over half have lost their homes. There is so much uncertainty here. But they KNOW Mardi Gras. Tonight and tomorrow they do what they have done for years. This is their party. It is living their New Orleans. They have that for now. Come Wednesday it will be more of the hard uncertainty once again.

Someone's Home

I went with lb0313's friend Wendy to her home to pick up a few things. They live very close to a breach in the London Avenue Canal. To look from the outside of these homes it may not look that bad but wait til you get inside. It's utter ruin. The walls and ceilings are worthless. Everything must be gutted out. Possessions left in the home were destroyed. Clothing just falls apart when you touch it. Dirt and dried mud are everywhere. You can see the water lines on walls and windows. You can not live in these homes. There are a number of FEMA trailers in front of homes but not so for most. I ask where are the rest of these people? They say they just don't know. There is much not known here.

Wendy and her husband have purchased a new home. They are not able to live in it yet though.... electricity issues. They paid off their mortgage with their insurance settlement. But many haven't received such settlements. Also they bought the home some 15 years ago. People who purchased homes more recently at much higher prices would never be able to pay off their mortgages from the insurance settlements I am told.

Wendy and her husband don't know exactly what they'll do with the home. For starters it would need to be raised yet they aren't sure exactly how high as the flood maps are not completed. For now they'll sit on it. But one can tell just returning here for a few minutes is hard on Wendy.

Meanwhile Wendy's 13 year old son who has been in Memphis with relatives so he can attend school just arrived for Mardi Gras. Remember there were no schools open at the beginning of the school year so many people have sent their kids off to other parts so they will not fall behind.

People here are in limbo. They are waiting...for insurance settlements, for flood maps, for the city plan, for jobs to return. There is so much uncertainty.

Here is a video tour of Wendy's home......


I took off at 6:12 this morning and have made it in. On the drive in from the airport I was able to see some of the destruction though we went through Kenner which is in better shape than most. They had wind damage rather than flodding and you see the FEMA Blue Roofs everywhere.

When the plane was coming in to land everyone was completely silent and all were looking out the windows. It was so very quiet.

Here is just a rough video of landing and the drive into New Orleans. It's not very good but I'm trying to get everything set up so this is more of a test.

I'm going to Gentily in a bit to the home of one of lb0313's friend which is not inhabitable. So I hope to have that up later.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Preparing to Leave

Friday, February 17, 2006

Test Podcast

Thanks to NTodd for all the help!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Scouting for Reality in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Scout prime, now with first-draft, is doing an outstanding job of following the aftermath of, as well as the racial and political issues swirling around, the government's inept response to the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. She has established quite a reputation for her research and analysis in the aftermath of the hurricane, and many blog readers follow her stories to acquaint themselves with the details that the "so called liberal media" fails to report. Scout prime has been following the story closely from her home in Wisconsin, but she has not had an opportunity to visit New Orleans to post about her impressions.

To that end, several kind folks who post at Eschaton thought that maybe it'd be a good idea to pool our funds and send Scout to New Orleans, if Scout would agree to go. Fortunately, she said, "yes." So here we are, embarking upon a fund-raising effort to help send Scout to New Orleans so that we can read about her first hand perceptions of the hurricane. Scout is committed to gathering and reporting as much information as possible during this trip, and I know it will be a rewarding experience for those of us who have been following her posts on New Orleans. In an upcoming post on this blog, we'll be asking you what you'd like Scout to look into while she's in New Orleans, so stay tuned!

Thanks to lb0313, Scout has been offered a place to stay. Scout and lb0313 have determined that the best time for a visit is March 1 - 8, 2006, right after Mardi Gras. That's three weeks away. We figure we'll need about $ 1,000 to cover the cost of air fare, a rental car, gas for the automobile, and a modest food allowance. As stated above, lb0313 has generously offered a room, as well as use of laptop and Internet access. The break down of the expenses will be listed in an upcoming post.

Click on the "Make A Donation" link to the right, under my profile to contribute through Pay Pal, but if you would prefer to send a check directly to Scout Prime, that will be more than welcome, as well. You can contact me at or Scout directly at for the address to where the check should be sent. In addition, if you have air miles that you'd be willing to donate for this worthy cause, please contact one of us! Donation of air miles will help to cut down the overall all cost of this fundraising effort by at least a few hundred dollars.

For accountability, we will update and share with you the money we receive on a daily basis, and we once we hit our goal (the goal will be lowered if air miles are donated), we will cease fund raising.

One last thing, this blog has been created for you, the people who are interested in and care about the tragedy that happened to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. When Scout visits New Orleans, this is the place where she will post about what she finds. So check back often during the week of March 1 - 8, 2006!

Thank you for your generosity and kindness.

A Note from Scout...

Here's a note from Scout regarding what she'd like to gain from the trip to New Orleans. Please feel free to offer your ideas concerning what you'd like to learn about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the "Comments" Section. Thank you.

I started writing about New Orleans, or NOLA (for short), soon after Hurricane Katrina struck. I’ve continued writing to the point that my blog resembles a Katrina blog ~ which was never my intention. But I have been drawn to the story again and again as it transcends compelling. What happens when a city is virtually destroyed? How do people cope? How do they rebuild? What does it even look like? Reports from NOLA news outlets give one an idea but it is only that…an idea. To begin to know what is happening requires going there. We hear reports of "utter stagnation" and procrastination regarding the rebuilding process. Yet there are also things happening in NOLA. Politicians continue in attempts to get the necessary aid for rebuilding. Some residents are organizing themselves to fight for their neighborhoods. Much of what is and what is not occurring goes either under-reported or not reported at all to Americans throughout the country. So this group of concerned blog readers have decided to send someone to NOLA to bring a first hand account. I feel fortunate to be that someone. Our goal is to deliver an account of the devastation and the process of rebuilding this once great city. We ask for your financial support but also invite you to become a stakeholder in this process by submitting questions you would like answered on NOLA. We hope this will be an opportunity to not only inform all of us but in a small way communicate the caring and concern that does exist for the people of NOLA. They only ask that they not be abandoned. I hope you’ll stand with them and support our effort to communicate their need in any small way you can. Thank You.