Monday, December 1, 2008

Magical Mystery Tour

This slideshow is composed of pictures of the Pinnacles in Australia and of the Chile-Bolivia border region. The source of these photos is Webshots.

I jazzed it up by using Slide to apply the Remix style and the Negative effect.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Let's ask Obama to have New Orleans musicians play at the Inaugural

(NOTE: This diary was originally posted on Daily Kos by azureblue, a musician who got his start in New Orleans. Per a request he made to readers in a comment under that diary, I am crossposting it here--because he and I feel this is an idea that needs as much attention and exposure as possible so hopefully Obama will pick up on it. The slideshow, however, was put together by me to show some of New Orleans' rich artists and rich cultural heritage which remain, which should not be allowed to evaporate in the face of BushCo's cultural genocide in Louisiana.)

The title says it all, but this grew out of a discussion last night about Obama's love for jazz, and the possibility of him having jazz players at the inauguration:

azureblue's diary :: ::
America's only true art form, jazz, came from New Orleans. All jazz can be traced back to a little park right outside of the French Quarter- Congo Square, where slaves were allowed to congregate and play music together. This, combined with the brass bands of New Orleans, and the piano players in Storyville, created jazz and the music that is so distinctively New Orleans. And this cultural heritage is gone. Wiped away because of the greed of George Bush, in his goal to give more money to his rich friends. Bush not only destroyed a city, he destroyed the roots of America's one great treasure- jazz. The musicians of New Orleans are scattered far and wide, their social structure in tatters, their ways of passing musical ideas from generation to generation, lost. The fabric of musical evolution torn. New Orleans had something very unique as far as music goes: All the musicians there learned from their peers and the previous generation, took it all in, and created new styles built on the old ones. Even the rock & rapper guys there will admit the influence, you can't escape it there- it seems to rise up right out of the ground.

I am a New Orleans musician, jazz and New Orleans R&B, (and, no, I am not trying to get work for myself). I know this first hand. Although I left the city for the west coast years ago, I saw first hand my musician friends ruined, some dead, their instruments destroyed, their sources of income flooded out. I saw them forced to put down roots in alien places. I see them returning and now trying to make a living in the city, doing what they love in the worst of circumstances. Trying to restore the life they had, their homes with little outside help.

Three years. Three long years of ruin and neglect, while America goes on to other "more important matters". Take a moment to use google maps / street view, and look for yourself: search Lakeview, and lower Ninth ward, and tell me this is America. This is horror, that America would let this go one for three years. Why has New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, been ignored like this?

Obama most likely will have Jazz at the White House for the Inauguration. He is known as a lover of jazz and he should step up and do something to help the art form, besides just listening. What better way to help jazz and the city that gave birth to Jazz, than to have New Orleans musicians perform for him? This will give work and recognition to them, and maybe be the first step this country takes to restoring the city and the treasure it gave America.

I wish I knew how to get this idea to Obama and his team,, but I am thinking that this is a good place to start. I hope that people who are in contact with him will see this "in Orange", and pass the idea along to him. My bone to pick with DK is that, for years, diaries about New Orleans have fallen off the page like stones. Can we rec this, add to it, and keep it up on the list, and maybe someone will get a word to our next President? It is the least we can do.........

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Hedge

When she was three or four, her dad

planted The Hedge, of honeysuckle

that for years gave her home's yard

an edge--Spring's nourishing showers

purplish-pink flowers would bring, and

in its branches robins and other birds

would build nests and sing--followed

by Summer's juicy-tasting red berries,

bright and gay--good for birds, not

little kids, mom would say--then, in

Winter, the bushes' naked branches

clothed in snow, sometimes ice, added

to the chill landscape's silvery glow--

for about ten years, the bushes grew,

their branches spreading wide, and she

found the spaces between them, as a

small girl, a splendid place to hide--

while other kids would grow up with

a friendly cat or dog, The Hedge was

her constant companion as she was

growing up--until she was 13 and

left her childhood home and moved

away--but t'was a short drive from

her new home so she could still see

it anyway--for The Hedge's existence

she'd never given much thought to

its reason, nor asked why something

so gorgeous was there to brighten the

landscape every season--it was just for

beauty, she'd assumed--decorative,

pleasing to the eye, perhaps an

improvement to increase the property's

value--which is why she was so

dumbfounded when 1990 thereabouts

she drove by the old house to see The

Hedge being torn down, then came

home and told her dad this, wearing a

big frown--(he was in the autumn of

his life--but she hadn't known at the

time)--dad considered its destruction

a most distressing crime--then went on

to tell her something about which she'd

never had a clue--something poignant

that for all those years since it had been

planted she now wished she knew--

as a wise, kindly and loving King would

build a moat around his palace--to

guard his precious little Princess against

any acts of malice--her father had

planted The Hedge to protect her from

the nasty boy next door--who'd bitten

her and done other bad things her

Father just could not ignore--so The

Hedge was no mere ornament--but

a sign of her Father's love--his caring--

something she feels very bad to

realize she never truly did see--

through all of those years as a

bratty young girl, then a rebellious

teen--at times she'd felt he didn't

really love her--and was really

being mean--and she didn't see

him as the treasure she should have;

him in her thoughts she'd curse--but

she truly loved him, misses him and

The Hedge and pleasant memories of

both she now nurses--she now likes to

imagine her Father's contented life

over on the Other Side--living in a

gorgeous, spacious home with The

Hedge blooming outside.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The MSM's Silence On Post-Katrina Louisiana

I wish I could say that Hurricane Gustav refocused more national attention on Louisiana's issues including vanishing barrier reefs and wetlands as well as the following, which I learned about this morning from a fellow Kossack living in the NOLA area who had evacuated when Gustav was on the way. Maybe it did--for only a few minutes.

For to put it bluntly, even in the New Orleans area even though the MSM gave out of state observers the impression that the area had escaped unscathed or was only lightly damaged, residents still have a major mess to contend with--and FEMA still doesn't seem to have learned from Katrina and the flood.

Here's the comment I posted on NBC's Daily Nightly If you can't find it, it's been censored.

Bear with me for being a bit picky about last night's coverage after Nightly's first-rate coverage of Gustav's hitting Louisiana last week, but I wish you'd aired more than just a headline about the suffering and devastation still prevailing in Houma and other areas of Louisiana.

As my NOLA-area friend has put it in an e-mail,

"Gustav and Katrina are forever intertwined. People were just starting to put K in perspective and at that moment we were on the run. The Gustav situation is not being covered. FEMA, again did not get the water, ice, tarps and MRE's to the disaster site. The supplies are starting to arrive TODAY. I have open sewerage on my lawn, spoiled food on the street, traffic congestion at the food stamp sites and on and on - same story. Those 10% insurance deductibles will not cover the type of damage that most received (shingles, fence, food, lodging). Nothing, absolutely nothing was learned from Katrina. All that money wasted on crony contractors instead of barrier island, wetlands and raised houses.

Also, I opened my paper this morning and discovered my neighbors were killed in MS during the evacuation. MS was just awful (blocked exits, guards with guns, accidents, no gas). Something needs to be done - I59 is a federal highway."
I just thought I'd pass the above on because amidst all of the Palindrone (which I call the incessant talk about and coverage of Sarah Palin) Gustav's aftermath is still major news because it shows that not too much has been learned in Katrina's wake.

Here's more from the Baton Rouge Advocate on FEMA's continuing to give Louisiana the shaft, which we haven't heard about from Brian Williams:
Shortages of food, water and ice Saturday in parishes hard hit by Hurricane Gustav prompted criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Gov. Bobby Jindal and promises of new truckloads of supplies from the agency.

FEMA officials said millions of meals-ready-to-eat, bottles of water and bags of ice were on the way, and they were shuffling supplies among the more than four dozen distribution sites around Louisiana to keep handing out provisions to the lines of people without power.

So we can't say this is due to Louisiana's having a Democratic governor this time.

And that's not all--storm-weary residents of NOLA are stressed out
As hurricane season has hit high gear with the passing of Gustav and the approach of Ike, doctors say they’ve seen a large increase in the number of prescription anti-depressant and anxiety medications as locals deal with the stress of strong storms that have tracked our way. has lots of good advice at dealing with disasters during the recovery including
devote some time to getting your stress level under control. Start by being patient with yourself and others. Don’t expect things to restore themselves instantly. Focus on the big picture instead of the little details. Determine what’s really important, and keep in mind that different people, even in your own household, will have different priorities.

Be tolerant of mood swings and expressions of disbelief, anger, sadness, anxiety and depression. Don’t overlook the feelings of children.

It also lists some surprising physical signs that an adult is under post-disaster stress as

Headaches or stomach problems.

Tunnel vision or muffled hearing.

Colds or flu-like symptoms.

as well as the usual symptoms such as depression, difficulty concentrating, feeling of hopelessness, etc.

Then there's power--indispensable to modern life--however, according to the Alexandria/Pineville Town Talk the power is still off for hundreds.

I hope that the Palindrone will soon fade and the MSM will take note of what really matters.

Last but not least, here are a couple of places to donate towards hurricane relief:
Network for Good. Or, as Barack Obama suggests, donate to the
Red Cross. Give what you can--but give. No amount will be too small. Thanks!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Stuffed Animals

Now she's on waiting lists

for three apartment houses

one where she knows for

sure her cat won't be

allowed--the others, she

doubts he'll be allowed--

which means the only

animals she'll be able to

have will be

stuffed animals.

When this time comes she

worries about what will

become of her "baby"--

which has owned her (you

don't own a cat--a cat owns

you) for nine years and is

14 years old--she knows it's

hard to find good homes

for older cats--the way it's

hard to find good jobs for

older people and disabled

ones like herself. So she

dreads the day she'll need

to take him to the pound

where no wonder how

much she wishes she were

able to keep him and what

a lovable pet he'd make for

someone else, they'll tell

her he'll have to be "put

down." Were she not so

shy she'd ask, "Yeah, and

do we put people down

when they're older than a

certain age? I mean, even

criminals on death row are

treated better than--until

the order comes to execute

them or they die naturally."

But she's not good enough

at thinking on her feet--as

well as too shy--to make

such a speech--and even

if she's lucky enough to

find a good home for the

little guy on her own--she

knows how traumatic it'll

be for him, being torn from

her that way and maybe

never seeing her again--

figuring since he's so old

he's set in his ways--as

well as the fact that she

herself will miss the comfort

of his soothing purr as he

curls up in her lap while

she pets his soft furr as

she relaxes over a good

book. So the prospect of

giving her "baby" up makes

her very sad--she's been

giving him all the love and

attention she can--for who

knows when an apartment

will open up--and to prepare

for the a petless life

she's started collecting

stuffed animals--

Small, inexpensive ones like

the Beanie Babies she found

on sale at the neighborhood

grocery store two/$10.00--she

bought a pug and another dog

gray all over except for a

brown left ear, area around

the right eye, and tail--not a

breed she can recognize, but

cute--oddly though she'd

much rather have a cat as a

companion animal because

it'll purr and cuddle and

snuggle in her bed and in

her lap, she prefers dogs as

stuffed animals--

because of all the different

distinctive breeds she thinks

they look more interesting--

thinking about only being

allowed to have

stuffed animals--

takes her back to her

childhood up to the time

she was nine--when her

family got their first cat--

before that, all she had were

stuffed animals--

And then she was away in

college in the western part of

the state--pets weren't

allowed in the dorms--

she could only have

stuffed animals.

Now she hopes there's

plenty of time before all

the pets she can have are

stuffed animals.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin Should Have Mentioned Gustav......

and its survivors across the wide swath of Louisiana which has been tortured by the devastation he left behind. Saying in last night's speech that she stands behind our fellow citizens in the area would only have been right--especially were she to have called upon other Americans to donate to the Red Cross as has Obama. (Link below the fold).

Now for the "meat"--following is a poem I've written to commemorate the third anniversary of Katrina and the federal flood. It is in the voice of the mother of 8-year-old and 9-year-old boys who have a disabled grandmother. While it is fiction, it's based on things people actually went through during Katrina and flood and in the aftermath.

8/29/05 And 8/29/08

Now we're on a bus heading who knows where

anxiously awaiting Gustav--nervously

wondering what will be there when

we get back--and when we can--memories of

the flood--wounds still raw--tearing us apart.

Those who weren't here would say about us--

we'd been warned Katrina'd come--so what

happened was our fault--but we couldn't

leave--no car, no bus--and besides we'd

thought we'd known for years our levees

would keep us safe--but they didn't--I

woke early that morning--sensed something

wasn't right--smelled shit, piss, vomit,

gas--other bad things I couldn't name--

maybe even death itself--I heard the

rushing water--got out of bed--it was

already up to my knees--and still

quickly rising--shook Noah, Jonah

awake shouting "Get upstairs--NOW!"--

Saw to Grandma 'Becca--their daddy's

mother--diabetes had robbed her of her

legs--we couldn't afford to buy her

new ones--I thanked the Lord I had

the strength to carry her--then

brought up her chair, insulin and

other meds--started going back for

food--but foul water was coming close

to the attic--found the ax I'd kept

there--cut a hole in the roof as the

boys made a flag--then each of them

and I took turns going out to wave

it--minutes turned to hours--we saw

helicopters but they didn't see us--

I'd check on 'Becca and give her her

shots and pills--it was sweltering and

I could tell that she wasn't doing

very well--and silently prayed the

Lord would see her through and that

we all be rescued--we were all hungry

and thirsty--rescue finally arrived--

asked me who all was there--"My sons

and their grandma--she's in a bad way,

you see--here's her insulin and all

the other stuff she needs."--they

took her and the boys--but not

enough room with others abroad so

they had to leave me--at first I

thanked the Lord 'Becca had been

rescued--and didn't worry thinking

the helicopter would be back soon

and that 'Becca and the boys were

going to be cared for--but it got to

be two long days before anyone came--

my city was gone--this brought tears

to my eyes--I just couldn't stop crying--

my neighborhood and much more under

water--wondering what had become of my

Mom, Dad, and sisters--had they gotten

out OK or drowned--and what about other

family, my friends, my church, the boy's

school, stores, my beauty shop--everyone

and everything else I'd known?--I just

couldn't believe what had happened to

my city, my home--where I've lived all

my life--I think I cried the whole trip

but then put myself together--they were

dropping me off on the overpass and

now I had to find 'Becca and the boys--

I first went to the Dome--but a guard

there told me it I couldn't go in.

"Well, do you remember a sick elderly

lady without legs, in a wheelchair--and

two boys--they're eight and nine?"--"No,

Ma'am," he said--"I'm sure I'd have seen 'em

had they got here on my watch."--then I

asked for food and water 'cause I hadn't

eaten for at least a week--he said they

didn't have any I could have--then said

I should go to the Convention Center--so

I did--on the way there was a store

where folks were taking what they needed

to survive--and I went in to see what I

could find--slim pickin's--hardly any

food left--but I was grateful for what

I could find--and at the same time

felt badly for having done what I'd

needed to do--so I left a note by the

register saying sometime I'd come back

and pay for what I took--finally I got

to the Convention Center where I was

turned off by the funk--in the crowds

I asked almost everyone I saw--"Have

you seen a sick older lady without

legs in a wheelchair and two school-

age boys?"--finally one man said, "I

think I seen 'em"--then took me to the

front wall of the Center where I saw

Noah and Jonah looking rather well--

aside from what they'd gone through--

but 'Becca's slumped over in her chair

covered in a blanket--each boy gives

me a silent hug--and Noah, on the

verge of tears, said, "She's gone--she

passed last night--nobody would give

her her shots or anything."--for the

second time I broke down--now only

had she been a wonderful grandma to

Noah and Jonah, she'd been like another

mother to me--soon after that was our

exile to Houston--now it's three years

later--I wish I could say our life is

cool--but both Noah and Jonah have

been having trouble in school--we've

all had nightmares, flashbacks--I've

nerves, low energy, feel very down--

overwhelmed--if I didn't know I need

to stay strong for the boys, I don't

know what I'd do--but I don't mean to

totally cry the blues--the good thing

in our life is we're back in NOLA--and

we've a home--now, it's with one of my

sisters and her remaining kids and gets

crowded--but I'm grateful we're not in

Houston where we just couldn't fit in

and got homesick rather fast--or

homeless--and though I'm saddened by

some things I see in this city--there

are other signs we're keepin' on

keepin' on in spite of everything--

those small baby steps NOLA's making

to come back--and today I pray

that we'll be able to return home

soon as now we're on the bus heading

who knows where anxiously awaiting

Gustav--nervously wondering what will be

there when we get back--and when we can....

Now for more about Gustav and related issues: dizzydean has posted an excellent, informative series on what Houma and the Chitimacha tribes have been going through in the wake of Gustav--a story which, with 24/7 coverage of Sarah Palin and the convention, the MSM have missed entirely.

Last but not least, here are a couple of places to donate towards hurricane relief:
Network for Good. Or, as Barack Obama suggests, donate to the
Red Cross. Give what you can--but give. No amount will be too small. Thanks!

Why The Obsession With Palin When Louisiana Is Hurting? (With Donation Info)

As duplicative, repetitive diaries keep being posted on other sites about Sarah Palin, the agonizing aftermath of Gustav in Louisiana is being ignored, if it hasn't been forgotten already.

Don't get me wrong--but there's plenty of time to go into Palin's issues between now and the election (though as Obama has said, we shouldn't go into Bristol's pregnancy because that's a family problem of the Palins.) And those having to do with her work as a leader are important. But we should not lose sight of what's going on in Louisiana as we focus on them. Because the disaster and anguish continue in Gustav's aftermath.

Perhaps many are relieved that Gustav missed landfall at New Orleans. But according to this report,
other parts of Cajun country were not as lucky.

In low-lying parishes across Louisiana's southeastern and central coast, homes were destroyed and towns flooded.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he has received reports of widespread damage across three parishes — Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary — near where the eye of the storm hit.

This low-lying Cajun country is an area with a distinctive, fascinating culture which is now seriously endangered due to the vanishing of the wetlands which have been occuring at a rate of a football per half-hour.

In fact, dizzydean has posted an excellent series of diaries on the effect of Gustav on the Chitimacha tribes in the Houma area, who he says in effect are virtually being ignored in light of 24/7 Sarah Palin coverage.

While it is good news that New Orleans has been spared much of Gustav's fury due to being 75 miles away (according to one report I heard) from landfall, that doesn't mean Kossacks should out of relief go back to forgetting about Louisiana, which, still suffering after Katrina, now must endure new wounds. And even New Orleans herself waited until today to allow residents other than recovery and other essential workers to come back. In fact, regarding NOLA, it ain't over yet. In this diary Nightprowlkitty tells of evacuees who are anxious to go back home and see what became of their property.

In fact, the damage is widespread. This article adds,
there were unconfirmed reports of significant damage in northern Louisiana. "The storm was expected to head more west. Instead it went through Louisiana and so literally now you have a storm that has caused widespread damage through a wide geographic part of our state," Mr Jindal told a news conference.

It is not limited to southern Louisiana--it can be found as far north as Alexandria. While the blogger was lucky not to lose her house, she did lose a car and truck. According to the Alexandria-Pineville Town Talk, those cities experienced serious storm damage and the water situation there is critical. On top of this, flooding from Gustav's remnants is becoming serious.

Lafayette's newspaper reports two deaths from Gustav's storm system.

Not only Americans were affected by Gustav--its effects were tragically felt in Haiti, a country which previously been hit by several other storms and is so poor that the people have already been reduced to eating dirt.

And, as Gustav evacuees want to return home, Nightprowlkitty reminds those of us who may have forgotten that three years after Katrina and flood, people in New Orleans and evacuees who haven't been able to come back still need the compassion of their fellow Americans. Also, bear with me for linking a diary on John McCain, but because this is on his disaster relief record following Katrina and the flood, it's germane to this Blogathon. I'm sure that if he's elected he'll prove all of his election-year Gustav pronouncements to be a sham as well as further neglecting the post-Katrina recovery which still has a long way to go.

Here's more information from Tom Head on the post-Katrina situation in Mississippi in the Mississippi Human Rights Report.

Last but not least, here are a couple of places to donate towards hurricane relief:
Network for Good. Or, as Barack Obama suggests, donate to the
Red Cross. Give what you can--but give. Thanks!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mileage Reports

Sitting in her caseworker's car in the apartment

complex where she was planning to apply for a

new home she noticed the younger woman

filling out mileage records to turn in to her

superiors at the agency of which she herself

was a client--this flashed her back to 10-11

years ago when she'd been working for a

supervisor--an odd, temperamental sort of

fellow for whom she'd felt she'd been

working at sufferance and had been walking

on eggshells--he could be very kind, even

fatherly at times -- but at others could be

rather anal or even meanspirited -- the one

reason she'd put up with abuse -- the feeling

that she could never be sure which "boss"

she'd be dealing with -- was that with her

speech disability and emotional problems

would make it hard to find a new job were

she to quit -- she was tempted to tell her

caseworker how fortunate she was to

have her comlpany pay her mileage because

some companies -- like that she'd worked

for -- don't treat their employees this well --

because back in the late 90's when she'd

been working for this company and had

been filling out and turning in mileage

sheets as everybody else there was able

to do her supervisor lectured her about

filling in these reports -- so even though

she was earning only the minimum wage

and could barely afford the gas, it had to

be on her dime (I know, strange metaphor

the way gas prices are these days) --

she figured that perhaps the accounting

office had spoken to her supervisor about

her handing in mileage reports so one day

when she had to go there for another

errand (the gas for which was on her dime)

she stopped in at the accounting office to

apologize for asking for paid mileage and

the main accountant with whom she'd

spoken had said that was OK -- everyone

there turned in mileage reports and got

paid mileage -- so driving back to the

branch office across the river where she

worked she started crying because now

she felt she'd figured out for some weird

reason she'd been being made an exception

of -- but of course knew she could not

say anything to her supervisor about the

unfaitness of it all fearing his reaction --

snapping back to the here and now after

being flooded by these memories she felt

like crying but instead put on a bravura

performance of a business-like, "normal"

adult apartment-hunting -- knowing not

only would those at the front desk of the

rental office get a bad impression about her

-- she also didn't want to bore and burden her

caseworker with the distressing details of

her past working life because there was

nothing she could do about them now --

because she liked the young woman very

much -- she'd gotten to know her rather

well -- for example, being a voracious

reader the way she herself was (currently

the younger woman's in the process of

re-reading her Harry Potter books -- and

she herself has been into fantasy and sci-

fi lately, but while she's seen a couple of

Harry Potter movies, she hasn't gotten

around to any Harry Potter books yet)

--in fact, this was the first time she who had

decided long ago in light of her emotional

problems that she was unfit to marry and

have children ever felt maternal towards

someone (other than the four-legged furry,

purring creatures with whom she'd shared

her home and her life) -- after her business

for the day was concluded and she made it

home, she got her work done there, ate

dinner, sat down in her favorite comfy

chair, and felt it safe to cry.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

There's Got To Be More In Life......

She'd decided, two months

After giving up her '87 Olds

Too costly to fix

One month after her boss

Told her she'd soon

Be released from her job

Which she'd had for

Many years with kind folks

Who'd gotten to be like her family

She'd felt comfortable

In her home away from home

Were she a cat

She'd have purred

But job loss wasn't the worstt

Her final report said she

Didn't play well with others

Too emotional--poor judgment--didn't

Complete tasks quickly enough

Or too many mistakes

Didn't display creativity--

but her job hadn't offered her

the chance to be creative--

she also got a bad mark for

not doing what the boss wanted

because she had a better idea

And the agents liked that better

Poor concentration, poor memory

And she lacked a pleasant

Optimistic attitude. He also

Said others she worked with

Were reluctant to ask her for help

Those very others she'd thought

Had liked her as though they

were family. She realized now,

a dysfunctional family.

At the end of the report the

Boss added something to the

Effect she just didn't fit in

There--or any other office

With "normal" people. Reading

Again the report late one night

She was so distraught she

Thought she'd cross the highway

Between her bus stop and the

Office without checking the

Traffic. But then she decided

She wanted to live. Life still

Had too much to offer. She found

That she enjoyed being on her own

Schedule, rising when it was light

Out, not answering to others,

doing what she loved. Or "her own

thing" as they'd say when she was in

The sixth grade. She thought

There's got to be more to life....

Than paper clips and sticky notes,

Rubber bands and paper reams,

Copiers, postage meters and fax

Machines, and the general daily

Grind. She didn't miss getting up

And going to work before dawn,

And coming home when it was

Almost dark in the winter--

A stressful, fatiguing routine.

And then she decided that there

Was wisdom in the boss's words.

He'd brought up signs that she'd

Been having problems. And she agreed

For for years she'd known something

Was amiss with her--with her extreme

Mood changes and emotional displays

That had been untreated for all those

Many years--she'd thought she could

Handle them on her own. For having

been labelled "Learning Disabled" in

Her youth, she'd wanted to be "normal."

But going it alone didn't help--

For as she'd found it was

Full of dangers and pitfalls.

She decided it was time to start

Healing. She worried about how

Much this would cost, but found

A doctor who didn't charge much

So now she'd getting the help and

Meds she needs. Life still isn't

Perfect--she still isn't up to

A job--but now she hope she's

Finally on the right road.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Louisiana Environmental Disaster: Where Are The MSM?

Back in 1988 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground, I can recall at least a few weeks of steady coverage by both the three major networks and cable news (just CNN at the time) of the disaster, its environmental impact, and efforts to clean it up.

But the fuel oil spill that happened in Louisiana earlier this week proves to be a much larger disaster with farther-reaching consequences--yet for some news briefs I've seen on NBC Nightly News and a couple of cable channels, there hasn't been the major coverage it should be getting. Why aren't the MSM taking it seriously?

And scorpiorising says,
it is somewhat shocking to me, given the size of the spill and its potential impact on fragile wetlands, that there isn't more help coming to help wildlife, and to help with cleanup.

In my view, the fact that the mainstream national media have been keeping coverage to a bare minimum has something to do with the lack of help for wildlife and cleanup.

The dire consequences of this disaster are already being seen: New Orleanians-area residents drink water from the river, so many are now buying bottled water.

Also, the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, where many waterfowl have their home base during the winter, is preparing for the disaster's future effects.
As he piloted his boat out of the refuge's headquarters in Venice on Thursday, manager Jack Bohannan pointed out thick black chunks of oil and multicolored sheens near the river bank. A floating water hyacinth caked in thick black muck floated by.

"Remember this is nothing compared to what's going to be happening," he said. "This is just a sign of things to come."

And I haven't run across anything yet in my sources, but I shudder to think of the impact a hurricane would have on this fuel oil spill.

Below is the comment I posted on NBC's Daily Nightly website. If it doesn't appear there later today, it's been censored:
Bear with me for being off-topic, but an environmental disaster is taking place that needs much more intensive coverage not only because of the difficulty of cleaning it up, but because of its long-term effects.

I mean the oil spill on the Mississippi at New Orleans. I will say that Nightly did headline the spill both last night and Wed., but that was not enough news coverage for such a big disaster. Where's Anne Thompson when we need her awesome environmental reporting?

This oil spill is a bigger disaster than the Exxon Valdez disaster, which received several weeks of steady coverage after it happened. It endangers Louisiana's fragile wetlands and could only add to the growing "dead zone" in the Gulf off Louisiana.

Could NBC be practicing self-censorship by keeping full coverage of this environmental disaster off the air, to make sure the Republicans stay in the White House?

Louisiana 1976
If this comment doesn't appear under NBC's Daily Nightly. it's been censored.

And last but not least, there was this intriguing comment by wordene:
This is the real reason why Grampy McSamepants didn't show up for his photo-op. Wouldn't want the Lazy Media to accidentally report some real news. They haven't filled their daily quota of propaganda disbursement.
This article by Huffpo's Karen Dalton-Beninato provides confirmation of this view, which makes sense to me.

(Bear with me for concluding with a quick rant, but I would have included some photos I found on flickr the way scorpiorising did, but I just can't get them to transfer over to DKos. Under one of her diaries, someone said there's a code you can pull up from a photographer's photostream, but there's no way I can find it? WTF? And I tried to see if Photobucket has anything, but they don't.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Louisiana's Relationship From Hell: The Sequel

For anybody who thought Louisiana would get a far better deal from BushCo under GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal than she did under Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, they'd better think again. For Bush's pattern of abuse against Louisiana seems to transcend her politics. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate,
Bobby Jindal, angered over the increased costs that storm-wounded Louisiana must shoulder for construction of hurricane protection levees, asked Washington for more time — and a little fairness.

Under the latest war spending bill, Louisiana must kick in $1.8 billion by 2011 in order to activate $5.8 billion in federal funding needed to strengthen the New Orleans-area levee system.

Jindal said Louisiana’s share for repairs to the 360-mile, federally maintained levee system, is higher post-Katrina, than before the storm. "It seems ridiculous," Jindal said, tersely.

According to this Times Picayune article, Jindal is pressing Bush over Louisiana'a levee costs.

Jindal was quoted as saying,
"We think it's wrong that the state of Louisiana should be required to pay $200 million more in matching dollars than we would have paid (under rules in effect) before Katrina."

The article adds that
President Bush also could issue an executive order to trigger a provision included in the 1986 Water Resources Development Act, which would allow the state to pay back its share of construction costs over 30 years instead of three years, which presents a financial crisis for Louisiana.
and that California and Nevada have gotten such deals.

"We’re willing to pay our share; we just want the flexibility that has been offered to other states,”
Jindal was quoted as saying in the Advocate.

He also said in effect that Louisiana's having to pay such a large share of these costs would force her to make massive cuts in schools, social services, and coastal restoration.

In the Times Picayune Jindal was quoted as saying,
"We've encouraged people to come back to their homes, to their businesses....It would be irresponsible to ask the people of Louisiana to go through even one additional hurricane season without the protection they've been promised by their government. We will keep our word to the people of Louisiana."
According to the Advocate article, Jindal
also issued an ominous warning: “Over the next few years, we as a state have to make generational decisions on areas we want to protect and areas we want to restore.”

He said many federal policymakers have expressed sympathy for Louisiana, which suffered a one-two punch from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, but that sympathy “needs to be translated into legislative action.”

“The administration can administratively give us the time we’re asking for,” Jindal said of President Bush, a fellow Republican. In the alternative, new language could be included in a congressional housing bill before Congress breaks for its August research.

Bush's discriminatory treatment of Louisiana is especially devastating at a time when storm season is heating up with Tropical Storm Dolly poised to enter the Gulf. While forecasters are calling for landfall at the Texas-Mexico border, this is only July. Who knows what the most active months of August and September will bring?

Also, a congressional delegation has been in New Orleans taking a look at the need still present nearly 3 years after Katrina and the federal flood hit.
For U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson, one member of a congressional delegation touring the New Orleans region, a few images from the opening two days made her wonder, "Do we live in America?"

She recalled a large family in St. Bernard Parish living in a FEMA trailer containing a single twin bed, with a bathroom that would cramp just one adult trying to bathe. The family was recently notified by FEMA that it would have to leave the trailer, according to Richardson, a Democrat from California.

Government has to "stop looking at a manual and look at the people," she said.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Madness: A Bipolar Life"

by Marya Hornbacher is the shattering sort of memoir about which I've a personal rule of not starting to read before bedtime. Because I won't want to put it down until it's finished.

When we first meet Marya, she's lying on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood, having severed an artery while cutting herself. This is what draws us into the living hell of her condition--rapid-cycling Bipolar I, the worst form of the disease.

We experience Marya's turbulent early life as she tells us about the "Goat Man"--who her mother tries to assure is a nightmare, but 4-year-old Marya knows is very real. She's seen him and felt his fur.

Marya also struggles with serious eating disorders, about which she has written in more detail in the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (P.S.)

She adds that back in the 70's children weren't diagnosed as bipolar and that even now there's a debate over whether or not children can have bipolar. Also, we learn that the term "bipolar" was first used in 1980--before that, the illness had been called manic-depression.

As a teen Marya abuses street drugs and, in order to obtain them because she doesn't have much money, trades promiscuous sex for them. Also, she begins drinking heavily on top of her eating disorders which prove life-threatening and for which she ends up in the hospital.

She's taken to her mother's psychiatrist who diagnoses her with depression (which those with eating disorders were thought to suffer from then) and prescribed Prozac--the "in" med of the time, but the worst thing you can give someone with bipolar.

Later in life she experiences the surreal roller-coaster of an illness that, even after she's finally been properly diagnosed at the age of 24, she still doesn't take seriously. Because bipolar, like diabetes, is a disease that must be managed throughout one's life. She doesn't take presctibed meds and instead drinks in order to self-medicate. One day she has 17 drinks and still doesn't think she's had too much. Also, she still has anorexia and bulimia at times. This sort of thing ruins her liver and otherwise threatens her life.

In the best of times, she energetically works for a magazine; in the worst she's hospitalized more than a few times--sometimes even enduring electroshock treatment which wipes out large blocks of her memories. And because she's so ill she must endure heavy side-effects from her meds.

Sometimes there's even some humor in her story--like when she mentions being in a new psychiatrist's office and notices that she sees the same magazine there as she's seen in all other psychiatrists' offices. She adds that the pictures on the waiting room walls are the same in every office. This reminds me of Johnny Carson's joke about there being only only one fruitcake and around Christmas everybody sends it to everybody else.

Everyone who has bipolar or any other mental illness needs a steady rock in her life--and Marya's has always been her mother. Her mother visits her when she's in the hospital and, when she has to recover in her mother's home, supports her throughout and treats her with kindness and gentleness.

Such a far cry from my own movie-buff mother who, since I was unable to deliiver the "Oscar-winning performance" of tight emotional control she demanded, verbally/emotionally abused me for years as I was growing up--but that's subject for another diary that I'll write when I feel up to it. I don't feel like it now.

I can, however, relate to many other things Marya went through, although so far I've escaped the substance abuse, self-injury, and promiscuous sex, and never have had it badly enough to be hospitalized. But in ways, my life has been just as surreal and disjointed between the disease and its fallout as was hers. I've been coming down from a manic or high hypomanic episode and mentioned this to my psychiatrist who said I should up the Depakote to 4 a day--so I'll give that a try. Wish me luck!

"Madness" reads like a novel and is a very fast read. It'a a must read whether you've bipolar and want to know about another person's experience with the condition, know someone with bipolar and want to better understand what they're going through, or just want to learn about bipolar. You won't want to miss it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Yes, There Is A Double Standard......

going on regarding what politicians and other people have been saying about this current flooding and what they said after the federal flood about New Orleans and those it impacted. I was cynical enough and had had my suspicions as I noticed that something was missing.

To wit: Nobody, even though some of the currently-affected communities along the Mississippi which had also been affected in the flooding of 1993 have been flooded again, has been telling the folks in these communities that they should not rebuild......

While, regarding New Orleans, people from then-Speaker of the House Denny Hastert on down almost immediately started calling for the bulldozing of New Orleans and turning her into swampland.

According to the author of this LSU Reveille editorial, there has been such a double standard--which confirms my suspicions.

But what the author talks about is only the tip of the iceberg. Because there's more: what got and still gets my hackles up about New Orleans is the fact that the MSM, by showing mostly-black and poor flood survivors, affected American's perceptions of New Orleans, including those of the Bush Administration. This is in spite of the fact that actually people of all races and classes were impacted by the flooding. I know I've said this often before, but it's germane to what I'm about to add.

While regarding Iowa and the rest of the Midwest, while as with the fact that not all impacted by the New Orleans flood were black, not all flood survivors in the Midwest are white, the perception on the part of some seems to be otherwise. Lately a cesspool of disrespect for New Orleans and Louisiana, if not outright racism, has overflowed. It's a replay of the abusive remarks racist Americans would further torture an anguished Louisiana with after the flood.

And Tim Wise adds more about stereotypes and other misconceptions about both the people of Iowa and of New Orleans, which have been even now working to New Orleanians' detriment:
there's Rush Limbaugh, who has decided to use the flooding in Iowa not to demonstrate compassion, but as an opportunity to make derogatory statements about poor black folks: specifically those caught by the flooding in New Orleans after Katrina in 2005.

This week, as folks in Iowa, Indiana and parts of Illinois have watched flood waters rise ever higher, Limbaugh took to the air to contrast these supposedly good and decent people who have joined forces to help each other, with the presumably evil, lazy and violent folks of New Orleans, who we are told, did nothing but foment criminality and wait for the government to save them during flooding there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Thus, we have his statement of a few days ago, in which he noted that in the midst of the devastation in the Midwest:

"I see people working together. I see people trying to save their property...I don't see a bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters. I don't see a bunch of people running shooting cops. I don't see a bunch of people raping people on the street...I see the heartland of America. When I look at Iowa and when I look at Illinois, I see the backbone of America."

Well, we all know Limbaugh is an Extremely Annoying wingnut gasbag with racial attitudes that are more than a little questionable, but Wise adds:
Sadly it isn't only Limbaugh who has been making these kinds of comparisons. Millions of us have also been subjected to the e-blast missives making the rounds, which seek to contrast the law-abiding, God-fearing, and (let us not forget) mostly white farming folks of the Midwest to the black, urban, and congenitally defective folks of the Big Easy. If you haven't received something like this from a friend, relative or co-worker yet, just wait, because you probably will soon.

But what all of these like-minded rants indicate--whether spewed to 20 million pliant sheep via the airwaves, or posted on a pathetic little blog read by no one--is the dishonesty of those offering them up. Either that, or the fundamental ineptitude of the same when it comes to doing basic research, fact-checking, or merely paying attention to the fundamental differences between the flooding of New Orleans and that of rural and small town Iowa communities.

Examples of racist and otherwise anti-New Orleans comments by other Americans can be seen in the comments under these posts in Sean Hannity's forum and in Black Spin. Take a look at the negative, stereotypical remarks on this forum where Iowa's relative paucity of crime is discussed. Fortunately they're interspersed with those of others better informed as to what happened in New Orleans during and after the flood as well as the differences (e.g. population density) between New Orleans and Iowa communities.

Wise lists the major differences in how the federal government handled the New Orleans disaster, and in other aspects. He mentions that not only were there very few escape routes out, residents were actually prevented from escape by armed police from a neighboring parish. And how many didn't have access to cars they could use for escape. He reminds us of how tens of thousands were jammed into the Superdome and the Convention Center. Last but not least, he tells us not only how the Department of Homeland Security kept the Red Cross from entering New Orleans, FEMA itself didn't show up for several days. None of which happened in Iowa.

And I'm going to add that I predict that Iowa and the rest of the states impacted by this flooding will be better treated by BushCo as long as they're still in office, than was Louisiana. If anyone needs more evidence that BushCo has been attempting to carry out ethnic cleansing, if not outright cultural genocide, in Louisiana, this is it.

Wise adds later in the article:
So consider Limbaugh's formulation, where he says, "I don't see a bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters, I don't see a bunch of people running shooting cops. I don't see a bunch of people raping people on the street."

Fair enough. Those things aren't happening in Iowa. Yet, according to multiple post-Katrina investigations, and stories written up by the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, the New Orleans Times Picayune, the Guardian (London), the New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Reason Magazine and the American Journalism Review, they weren't happening in New Orleans either. Reports of shooting at helicopters, or rapes or murders were almost entirely false. There were no murders in the evacuation centers, few if any sexual assaults (and none on the street as Limbaugh claimed), no helicopters fired on, and no police officers shot by residents. Yes, there was looting, although by a distinct minority of persons trapped in the city, and overwhelmingly for necessities like food, medicine, water,and clothing to replace the rotting, soaked rags people were wearing after wading through waist-deep water. And according to persons on the ground in the flood zone, even the luxury items taken were typically used as barter chips, to get rides out of the city for oneself and one's family when it became obvious that large scale assistance wasn't going to arrive any time soon. In other words, reports of widespread thuggery in New Orleans during the flooding have been greatly exaggerated, if not entirely fabricated, and have only remained believable to millions because of the race and class biases that allow people to believe the worst about poor black folks even without a shred of actual evidence.

Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but the notion that there has been no looting in the Midwest, presumably because white rural folk are more civilized than their black and urban counterparts is demonstrably untrue. There have been several reports of theft in Columbus, Indiana, for instance--mostly people taking things out of folks' front yards that have been left out to dry--and in Cedar Rapids, police recently made their first looting arrest (though there have been other reports of theft as well), of a white woman who was stealing alcohol from a local bar.

(I hope I didn't quote Wise too extensively, and bear with me if I did, but he was an excellent source who put everything into perspective. It was from reading Wise that I learned of crimes that had happened after Indiana and Iowa flooding--when in contrast, during and after the New Orleans flood, you heard all over the place about violent crime in New Orleans--then weeks later when such stories were debunked, there wasn't much about that in the MSM--so the more ignorant still have the impression that New Orleans was something like a Thid World trouble spot back then>)

Back to New Orleans--HuffPo's Georgianne Nienaber reports that a new call has been made for an 8/29 Commission. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu had drafted the legislation, but per Nienaber
To this date, Republicans have blocked the bill and it is languishing in committee.

I hope some of these Senators, probably racists who want to blow off New Orleans because they erroneously see her as a "black" city, are from states affected by the current Midwest deluge--that would be karmic.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I'm frustrated and discouraged........

because for the last three months I've organized a NOLA/Gulf Blogathon on Daily Kos to call attention to the fact that, although Katrina and the federal flood happened close to three years ago, their lingering after-effects and the recovery of New Orleans and the other communities haven't been getting the attention they need to be getting. From such people/groups as the mainstream media, politicians (including presidential candidates) and others.

The last time I organized a Blogathon, it was hard to get people to sign up, and the latest time I announced one to sign up for, nobody other than me signed up. And even worse, I can't even think of anything really new to write about--which makes me reluctant to try to get others to commit for this month.

So I decided it would be a good idea to hold off on any more Blogathons until Wed., Aug. 27--Thurs. Aug. 28, figuring that around that time, between 8/29's anniversary and the picking up of hurricane season, there would be more of an interest.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What I Found on the Bus

Saturday morning I was enroute to the mall when I noticed the bus driver reading a piece of paper. I was just a little annoyed that she wasn't giving her undivided attention to the road, but curious about what she was reading. Later that day I was taking another bus back to the mall from the theatre--and noticed a passenger sitting across from me showing someone next to him a page identical to the one I'd seen the bus driver reading that morning. Curiouser and curiouser. So when I boarded the bus to go home, naturally when I saw an identical sheet of paper in the seat across from the one I was planning to sit in, I had to pick it up. It says:

It's Nearly Midnight

My bed remains unmade

As I stare at each wrinkle in my bed sheets

I think of the Ocean's waves

Which will drown me to sleep

Richard J. Dillon
Militia of the Immaculate

Friday, May 23, 2008

9/11 and 8/29--What's Different?

This diary is intended as something of a rant. Because this saddens me and makes my blood boil every time I think about it.

But before I vent, here's a caveat: as I said in yesterday's diary, 9/11 tore me apart. So this is by no means intended as a put-down of the trauma 9/11 survivors went through or a complaint about the well-deserved sympathy and support they've gotten.

Rather, what pisses me off is is the fact that survivors of 8/29--whether of Katrina, the federal flood, or of Rita--have not been receiving the equal aid, synpathy, or other treatment to that received by 9/11 survivors, that they deserve. What blueintheface brings up--the fact that Daily Kos hasn't been paying enough attention to New Orleans and Katrina, is the tip of a very big iceberg involving the MSM and many politicians that has been keeping storm and flood survivors from getting the attention they have a right to receive.

In fact, I'm going to argue that Katrina, Rita, and federal flood survivors, and the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, should be getting more federal aid than 9/11 survivors, and the city and state of New York, because 9/11 survivors, unlike 8/29 survivors, have warm, safe, comfy homes because all that was destroyed in New York during 9/11 were the Twin Towers. Far more, over a wider area, was destroyed during 8/29 than was destroyed during 9/11. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

9/11 and 8/29 are the most tragic things that have occured in this country so far in this century. After both, there were massive outpourings of support, aid, and sympathy from all around the country and most of the rest of the world.

But there the similarity ends. After 8/29 FEMA by means of all sorts of bureaucratic roadblocks did what it could to slow the arrival of relief and rescue worked and aid in drowned New Orleans and the Mississippi and Louisiana communities obliterated to the slabs by Katrina. And supplies and rescuers from overseas were turned away or squandered by the Bush Administration. This in an odd parallel to the way Burma's government has been keeping foreign relief workers out, which Bush himself, seemingly having forgotten what his own administration did during Katrina and the flood, has been protesting.

9/11 had its well-publicized heroes--the firefighters and police who received national adulation. But the heroes of Katrina and the flood--Coast Guard members who rescued New Orleanians from rooftops and sweltering attics, and homegrown groups such as the Cajun Navy and the NOLA homeboys who were mentioned in Douglas Brinkley's fine book "The Deluge"--are mainly unsung. Although there has been the rare exception such as Sunday's Extreme Makeover Home Edition finale which took place in New Orleans and featured a banquet for heroes of the flood and the recovery, why don't we hear so often about the heroes of 8/29 as as we do about the heroes of 9/11?

Then there was how the media handled the tragedies--I mean, regarding advertising. While both at first received wall-to-wall coverage on cable, these networks during 9/11 had the sensitivity and respect for the fallen, not to mention the tragedy itself, not to air commercials. Which is as it should have been--it would have been jarring and in poor taste to have the network cut away from scenes of the planes hitting and the towers falling to a cheery cereal or cat food commercial.

Why, then, didn't these networks show the same taste, respect, and sensitivity during Katrina and flood coverage? Interspersed with scenes of people wading through filthy water to the high ground of the overpasses, and of devastated Mississippi, were all sorts of commercials--which were not only annoying but also inappropriate in light of the tragedy, to say the least.

But the following two things really make my blood boil--the first is that apparently there's no such thing as 9/11 fatigue, and close to seven years later it still doesn't look like 9/11 will soon be forgotten. But many including the MSM, politicians, and most of the DKos community either have forgotten the tragedies of 8/29 or suffer from "Katrina fatigue." As will be noted at length later, even the DCCC seems to have forgotten the reality people in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes must deal with, as it refused to fund Gilda Reed.

The worst is the disparity between how 9/11 victims and survivors and the state and city of New York have been treated by BushCo and the way 8/29 victims and survivors, New Orleans, and Louisiana have been treated. In what I like to call an "Emperor has no clothes" moment because it exposes an uncomfortable truth, Sen. Mary Landrieu last year made the controversial observation that
“I often think we would have been better off if the terrorists had blown up our levees...Maybe we’d have gotten more attention.”

As previously noted, massive outpourings of aid and other support took place after 9/11 and 8/29. In the case of 9/11 victims, survivors, and heroes, not only has the sympathy continued to this day, they have gotten a great deal of respect from their fellow Americans. And on top of this families of people who died on 9/11 received $1.4 million apiece in compensation for their loss.

What's unfair about this is 9/11 survivors may have lost loved ones, but they still have comfortable homes to return to--unlike Katrina and flood survivors who besides losing loved ones lost their homes, and often their physical and mental health, and not only have never received $1.4 million apiece in compensation--money that would go a long way towards rebuilding their homes and lives--but, the way things look, will never be so lucky.

This is because a BushCo busily engaged in spinning New Orleans' levee failures as being the fault of New Orleans and Louisiana has thus abdicated its responsibility in this matter so it obviously won't do what it has a moral obligation to do. And loathesome Sen. Joseph Lieberman has supported BushCo by refusing to empanel an 8/29 Commission which would carry out an 8/29 investigation. As a result, not only will those who lost loved ones on 8/29 never receive the compensation to which they're entitled, attention to 8/29 and its lingering aftereffects will continue to be next to non-existent. Lieberman should be called to accounting because on his shoulders rests the blame for the fact that those who lost family members on 8/29 will not be justly compensated.

Regarding the survivors of 8/29, while they're still receiving sympathy from some quarters and groups of volunteers are still going to the Gulf Region to help build houses, it seems that on the part of many other Americans, if they haven't completely forgotten 8/29, this sympathy has evaporated. And it evaporated quickly after "Katrina fatigue" set in among them.

I saw this on such MSNBC blogs as "First Read," Daily Nightly, and Rising from Ruin, a Mississippi blog, where New Orleanians were often stereotyped by commenters venting their Katrina fatigue as lazy ingrates who sat around waiting for hand-outs and whining for help instead of picking themselves up by their bootstraps and racist comments about "Welfare babies" and worse were made. (But how do you pick yourself up by your bootstraps when your boots were washed away in the flood?) And it made me very sad to see Louisiana derided as a state full of lazy people and not treated as though she were a part of the United States.

But to be fair, in response to people's cruel comments there were also made thoughtful, sympathetic comments such as the following:

Something has been bugging me--not only here but under other entries...I adore Mississippi. I admire the way Mississippians, after having endured America's worst natural disaster and against immense odds have been valiantly struggling together to rebuild their communities and pick up the pieces of their lives. It's also good how Mississippi's leaders from Gov. Barbour on down to Mayor Longo and other local officials have their act together.

God forbid that central Illinois should see a disaster--like a huge quake on the New Madrid Fault--that would be of Katrina's magnitude--but were something like that to happen here, I would hope that the people of this area would come together and Illinois' leaders act with the same sort of bravery and can-do pioneer spirit exhibited by Mississippi's.

However, my heart goes out to everyone in Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, and the rest of Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Even the best teamwork and the ablest leaders don't take away the fact that you have loads of hard work remaining and many hardships that continue. Mississippi is still in a lot of pain, and I'm sure many are under psychic strain, having had your traumas and losses. There is only so much you can do by yourselves, and it will be years before everything is O.K. in Mississippi.

That being said, I also love Louisiana very much. And it saddens me to see people picking on her and beating up on her while she's down. Why do people often call her people (especially New Orleanians) "lazy," "whiners," "negative," or say they're "sitting around waiting for hand-outs?" I find such comments and other insults insensitive, callous, and meanspirited.

Wholistically speaking, Mississippi suffered the worst NATURAL disaster and PHYSICAL wounding from Katrina. Louisiana endured the "shock and awe" of a massive MANMADE disaster that not only seriously hurt her physically, but caused grave PSYCHOLOGICAL wounds as well. The wiping out of 80% of her largest and most historic and identity-defining city, with the dispersal of more than half of her residents to other parts of Louisiana and all around the nation snapped Louisiana's life in half. She will never be the same state again. And less than a month later, Rita obliterated villages on her southwest coast the same way Katrina did in Mississippi.

Thinking about this can bring tears to my eyes--but something truly heartbreaking is currently darkening Louisiana's life and sapping her of the strength--the healthy human resources--she needs to recover from last year's storms and to cope with any new challenges during this hurricane season. As if the still-unhealed physical wounds from the storms and New Orleans' flooding weren't enough, Louisiana is in a world of hurt from intensely painful emotional wounds as well. If it were possible for a state to cry from pain, Louisiana would.

Her people are just wearing down, afflicted with what officials are calling "Katrina brain"--general fatigue brought on by disruption of their lives--involving difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and mild depression. Also, approximately 500,000 of her people have since the storms been suffering from severe psychological damage--beset by sleeplessness, nightmares, chronic stress, and substance abuse.

Stress has been causing normally stable, law-abiding people to become unhinged, and according to a report in yesterday's Times-Picayune, "post-Katrina issues of displacement, anxiety, stress..." could partly be to blame for 8 weekend shootings in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish in which 4 were killed. And yet another symptom of the emotional turmoil wracking Louisiana--wife abuse has also increased in New Orleans, where shelter space and affordable housing are hard to find.

Most poignant of all, a fragile, exhausted Louisiana has been tortured by an excruciating epidemic of anxiety, depression, and suicides. This is not confined to the New Orleans area--it is statewide. When evacuees fled New Orleans for Baton Rouge, Shreveport, etc., they took their "baggage"--traumas and losses--with them. In fact, Baton Rouge, now Louisiana's most populous city overwhelmed by an influx of evacuees, is a "hot spot" for this epidemic. Saddest of all--Louisiana has insufficient resources to ease the anguish of the afflicted.

There may be a small ray of hope in the federal grant of $35 million to Louisiana Spirit, a crisis counseling program. While such counseling can keep smaller problems from becoming major ones, it's a bit of a "Band-Aid" measure because the funds cannot be used for medications or other intensive treatment, so anyone already seriously ill won't get the help they desperately need. So for Louisiana it's like being a cancer patient who's given only aspirin--which relieves her pain without treating its underlying source which is killing her.

The anguish of Louisiana's afflicted is getting worse now that hurricane season is at its peak. While the prospect of a new storm's hitting Mississippi this year or anytime soon has me very worried because it's the last thing you need with all the devastation you still have and all you need to do, Mississippi is a strong, otherwise-healthy state, and I'm confident that were worst to come to worst, you would deal with a new storm with the same fortitude with which you handled Katrina. However, I cringe at the thought of that happening to Louisiana. She fell apart when New Orleans' levees failed--a new disaster could push her over the edge.

So, please go easy on Louisiana and her people. After Katrina and Rita, she needs to be gently and compassionately nursed back to health. She does not need her people put down as "whiny," "lazy," etc. She--like Mississippi--needs the support and sympathy of other caring Americans to help her recover and become whole again.

That post first appeared on "Rising from Ruin" in 2006 but I reprinted it in near-entirety because the situation it describes still prevails for the most part--if it has not gotten worse due to BushCo's neglect of New Orleans and Louisiana and the fact that politicians and the MSM for the most part have not been paying attention to storm and flood recovery.

Even the DCCC has sleazily betrayed Louisiana and her people--look at how they refused to fund the candidacy of Gilda Reed in LA-01 and thus managed to sell out that long-suffering district to a well-financed Republican slimeball with a well-oiled campaign machine and deprived the people of a representative who would actually work in their and Louisiana's best interests instead of doing BushCo's and the GOP's dirty work.

I'd been wondering if Gilda would run again, but was very sad to read,

After the way my own party treated me, what legitimate Democrat is going to be willing to run in November as a sacrificial lamb? I have been asked by dedicated local Democrats to carry on the fight. It is going to take years, though, to come out from under the debt incurred by running once. Twice is out of the question no matter how progressive and determined I am to invoke change. Hurry up, campaign finance reform!

She adds,

Hurricane recovery and coastal restoration are still top issues. People in all 6 parishes are gasping for air, including the areas which had no flood waters. The victor Scalise claims hurricane recovery is tops but has done little in the state legislature in the almost 3 years since Katrina to address this. And just what will he be able to do as a freshman, minority-party rep known for his extreme partisan attacks on the very people he must now work with? We in LA-01 are again without appreciable representation.

I strongly doubt that the DCCC would have treated a Democratic candidate in a New York City district after 9/11 or even as late as this year as shabbily as they did Gilda. But I guess that to those corrupt scumbags, Louisiana is a small, poor state with few potential contributors to the DCCC, and consequently doesn't matter.

As Kossacks we need to make our voices heard and loudly demand for New Orleans, Louisiana, and the rest of the Gulf Region and their storm and flood survivors the same sort of attention, respect, and above all compensation that New Yorkers and others who survived 9/11 have gotten. And that 8/29 never be forgotten.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How An Illinois Gal Got "Katrina Brain"

I've often imagined many in the DKos community have been wondering why I care so much and have been so passionate in my support of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Region from afar, after having been to New Orleans but once, over 30 years ago. And how Hurricane Katrina and the federal flood have had such a tremendous, shattering impact on me though I witnessed them safe and dry far from the sea in central Illinois. And how not only could I be well-deservedly hard on BushCo, but even take Clinton and Obama to task for not paying enough attention to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Region. And why I feel so strongly about this I started the NOLA/Gulf Blogathons. I'll go into that in more detail below the fold--but first I'll tell you how 9/11 impacted me.

I was, to make a long story short, traumatised. Here's how I first heard about the attacks--it wasn't in my car because I'd been listening to a tape instead. But when I arrived at work and turned on my radio I heard a chaotic jumble of info that wasn't clear until there was a news story that put it all together. On top of that one of my co-workers had heard from someone else that the Sears Tower had also been hit--which was much too close for comfort--2 1/2 hours away. But fortunately that turned out to be a rumor.

After that, for at least the next few months, I was all shook up. I don't have a crystal ball--so I felt as if anything could happen at any time, fearing that I'd be hearing of new terror in Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans...all around this country. Because around this time, although there were no new explosions, the anthrax attacks took place. And I did some things I'm embarrassed to admit now. Looking back on them, I know they were foolish, but they made perfect sense to me at the time the way the world situation appeared to be.

But several years went by and, while terrorist bombings took place in Spain, Britain and elsewhere overseas, no further attacks occured in this country. So I gradually became less apprehensive that anything like another 9/11 would happen here.

Now for Katrina and the federal flood. I'd begun following hurricanes on the Weather Channel in 2004 when four struck Florida. So naturally when Katrina formed, crossed Florida, and then entered the Gulf and strengthened to a Cat 5, and storm trackers forecasted that it was going to directly impact New Orleans, I started paying close attention. And was more than a little shook up, because of the doomsday predictions that she would be wiped out and uninhabitable for many years afterwards.

Because I may have been to New Orleans over 30 years ago, but since then, have traveled there many times in spirit. I love that beautiful city and the rest of Louisiana, and have always enjoyed reading about New Orleans and Louisiana and the distinctive culture there. And seeing movies filmed there.

Then on 8/29 Katrina made that jog to the left and instead made first landfall at Buras, Louisiana, then made a second landfall in Mississippi. I was as relieved as was everybody else on the outside, unaware of what had actually happened in New Orleans, to hear newspeople and even people in the French Quarter, away from the danger zone, who didn't know what was really going on say New Orleans had "dodged the bullet."

But soon I was to learn of the true scope of the disaster, as the Lower 9th, Gentilly, Lakeview and the rest of the lower-lying areas of New Orleans rapidly filled with water from Lake Pontchartrain due to the failure of levees that should have been maintained by the federal government.

And the spirit-shredding things I saw while glued to the set--people waiting on rooftops for rescue or wading through what was called a "toxic soup" to the overpasses that served as high ground, FEMA's and other bureaucrats' blocking aid and rescuers--all broke my heart and made me very sad and angry that our own government was treating people this way.

But even more distressing was how soon after the disaster other Americans would complain about hearing news out of New Orleans in such places as the MSNBC blog Rising from Ruin In response to which was posted, originally in the summer of 2006:

I don't understand why so many are tired of hearing about New Orleans. I am aware that some are unhappy with the fact that Katrina's damaging effects in Mississippi, Alabama, etc. were barely covered compared to those of the flooding in New Orleans. I'm not trivializing this, because Mississippi did catch hell from Katrina as she obliterated or nearly obliterated whole communities as she did so. But the storm blew right through. After she had gone, Mississippians were free to begin assessing the damage, cleaning up debris, and taking other halting steps towards putting their shattered lives back together. So, Mississippi got a head start on recovery.

However, for Louisiana, the day of Katrina's landfall was only the beginning of at least a week of hell not for the faint of heart. Besides New Orleans' massive flooding, Louisiana was tortured by huge fires which made New Orleans' skyline resemble Baghdad's and could not be put out in spite of ironically being surrounded by floodwaters.

Louisiana felt the anguish of those who'd been forced to gravitate to the Superdome and Convention Center--which quickly metastasized into hot, humid, dark, filthy, festering sores where rapes and other violence took place and from where hordes of hungry, thirsty, sick, suffering humanity cried out for help on national TV. And waited...and waited...and waited.

Louisiana fell apart in the sickening sort of collapse usually seen only overseas--where the streets of New Orleans became Baghdad's. Louisiana was torn apart by leaders--Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin--who bickered and pointed fingers instead of working together to make order out of the chaos. In fairness, though, this catastrophe was off the charts, the likes of which had not been seen in America in many years. The levee breaches and rapid flooding had been a sort of "shock and awe." Is it any wonder that they were at a loss regarding what to do--let alone not being able to get together on dealing with a rapidly deteriorating situation?

And Louisiana was also embroiled in a relationship from hell with a Bush Administration clueless as to how to handle her excruciating crisis. Not to mention FEMA--I read in Michael Eric Dyson's Come Hell or High Water where, In Jefferson Parish, FEMA cut the telephone lines. Now, WHY would FEMA have done that? I mean, it doesn't make sense because this was LOUISIANA--not some foreign land with which America was at war.

And it took almost a month before the floodwaters were pumped out of New Orleans, then Rita hit and caused some new flooding, so residents couldn't even begin assessing the damage and cleaning up until the floodwaters were out of there.

Fast forward to a year after Katrina. It is shameful that with all the hardships New Orleanians, Mississippians, etc. are going through, the broadcast media is not reporting as much out of the storm zone as it should be... This near-total news blackout prevails in spite of the fact that Louisiana and Mississippi still desperately need help. Maybe having more attention paid to what people in those states must deal with could at least get FEMA to release the allocated money it has been sitting on, if not get more money appropriated.

Louisiana is especially in a world of hurt. New Orleans is a "tale of two cities"--small areas including her French Quarter which are in relatively good shape and large areas such as the Lower 9th and Lakeview which look worse than Baghdad. Her water, power, and sewerage systems are in war zone-like conditions. Her streets are full of potholes. Her fire department, schools, justice system, hospitals, etc. are not up to serving a city even of her diminished size. Her mental health system is having a breakdown.

And Louisiana's "Road Home" program, which is supposed to help her flooded-out homeowners if insurance didn't cover their losses, is bottled up in red tape. Also, Louisiana wasn't able to get enough money to sufficiently help her homeowners. (I don't feel like going into the sordid details of what happened to it at length right now--but originally Louisiana came up with the Baker Plan, (which the "Road Home" replaced) which would have been more helpful to her homeowners. In short, Louisiana got the shaft from the Bush Administration.)

I did what I could to help out by donating money, which since my income is low was a drop in the bucket in light of the desperate need, but was the best I was able to do. It depresses me, the way I've been sensitive to the suffering there, that I'm unable to do more, like going down there and helping out. This makes me feel helpless.

Here's something very unfair that happened to me on the MSNBC political website First Read after I posted the following after the first Democrats' debate on Apr. 26, 2007:

Where was the solidarity of the Democrats--with the exception of Obama, who mentioned New Orleans in a sentence--with the Katrina survivors? Why did nobody speak out regarding the importance not only to survivors but to the rest of America of making Louisiana, Mississippi, and the rest of the storm zone whole? I would not have been surprised by the "let them eat cake" Republicans' being silent on this matter in support of their "Dear Leader's" inaction. But for the Democrats--reputedly members of a "party for the people"--to thus remain silent is at the very least cowardly, at the worst, a betrayal of their own principles. Obeying the debate's rules is not a valid excuse--it smacks of the Nuremberg defense, "I was only following orders." The Democrats should have stood up and spoken out about the slowness of the recovery in Louisiana, Mississippi, and the rest of the storm zone, against Bush Administration neglect, and in support of Katrina and Rita survivors. There was a lot of "Wag the Dog" crap about abortion and the "right to life"--I have to ask, What about New Orleans' right to life? What about the right of people now in Houston, Atlanta, and other cities, who now cannot afford to do so because of the housing shortage, to return? The Democrats should have stood up to Brian Williams and let him know what really matters.

A mean-spirited wingnut who was rich enough to be able to afford to send his or her step-daughter to New Orleans to help build houses, who signed himself/herself "Katrina Fatigue" practically yelled at me for the way I kept bringing Katrina and New Orleans up:
I am not so sure I would continue to hound Brian Williams as you have done and continue to do across every board you can access. At least he is giving you the opportunity to express yourself. Once he gets as tired of your NOLA tirades as most of the rest of us are, he might just pull the plug. By the way, as I have previously asked you, how much time have you spent on site in NOLA, post Katrina. I ask, because my step-daughter is there again for the next two weeks. Her church rotates members in for two week intervals. There must be something you could do to help there. If you took all the time you spend writing these angry, repetitive dissertations, you would have time to go help.
Katrina Fatigue

Here's my reply:
Katrina Fatigue--God bless your step-daughter for going to the storm zone with her church and helping out. This is something I would dearly love to be able to do myself, but I'm too fragile physically and financially to do so. It breaks my heart that I am unable due to these circumstances to do this myself. So all I can do is offer my moral support and a sympathetic ear to Katrina survivors and cheer on those who are able to help or otherwise do right for Katrina survivors. And let those who don't treat Katrina survivors right know my serious dissatisfaction. I hope you are having a good day after judging me.

And "Katrina Fatigue" replied:
you judge us all the time. If you wish to fully exercise your right to free speech, including verbally attacking all who have a different opinion from you, then it is unfair for you to take the position of victim when we choose to exercise our own right to free speech.
Having to deal with this kind of insensitivity is one of several reasons I rarely if ever visit "First Read" anymore.

Now for "Katrina Brain." The mental health problems including depression, anxiety and PTSD that developed in New Orleans and among evacuees elsewhere in Louisiana are well-known, and then there are cognitive issues arising from the stress of living in a disaster zone, colloquially called "Katrina Brain" which make life disjointed and surreal. New Orleans blogger Slate recounts struggles with Katrina Brain:
Out with friends last weekend, one of them said: "Do you have Katrina brain? I do. I'm forgetting things all the time, forgetting words, names, where I put things down." I said that yes, that had been happening to me as well. We went on to talk about some of the other Katrina brain issues. I just tried to light my cigarette with my chapstick. Didn't phase me, that kind of thing happens a lot around here. People are gaining weight, losing weight, and not on purpose. Most of us forgive the flakiness of others because we're a little flaky ourselves. It's Katrina Brain. It's a disjointed kind of thing. They need to put xanax and prozac in the water system.

The other day I walked out of my house, fairly normal place: power's on, phone works, AC will really crank up if necessary. I got somewhere on Gov Nicholls around Dauphine and the dog stopped to sniff something intently. My brain didn't register that this something no doubt smelled intriguing to a dog. It was three refrigerators on the sidewalk with the telltale Katrina brown color on the outer walls of them. I hadn't noticed them, they were part of the landscape for so long that they didn't seem strange. But these were strange. It's nine months later and there they were. Hadn't seen one in a while but the brain didn't process this as an anomaly. Probably had just been removed from an apartment or condo building. Maybe not enough work crews. At this point, they are actually something that should stand out since all the others were hauled away, but here they were with my dog straining at the leash to sniff them. ::::::JOLT:::::::

Time can be strange here. Katrina Brain seems to warp time a little. A lot of us still struggle with what day or date it is. The friend who coined the K Brain term was asking if we find ourselves drinking a little more. Most of us said that although we're not drinking every day, we might have three instead of two when we do go out. Everyone at the table (6 of us) nodded in agreement and the pharmacy companies must love New Orleanians. So many of them are medicated these days, then of course there are the ones who aren't.

Now for vicarious trauma. While I Googled this but couldn't find any useful material specifically on vicarious trauma in individuals who watched Katrina and the federal flood unfold from far-off states, Rodney Luster, Ph.D defines it in general as
exposure to another’s traumatic event and the observer’s reactions as a result of that same event.
He adds:
A partial list of things to look for in yourself or others after exposure to a disturbing event, story, communication exchange, media, or news footage include the following: anxiety, hyper-vigilance, intrusive imagery or flashbacks, hyperactivity, night-terrors, rage reactions, mood swings, reduced ability to cope with daily stressors, social withdrawal, avoidance behaviors with certain situations, depression, despair, hopelessness, recurring anger, self-blame, guilt and shame, compulsive or aggressive behaviors, sleep disorders, concentration problems, disconnection from others, loss of interest in outside activities, and phantom physical pains.

I think I've been experiencing the vicarious trauma of seeing what happened not only to New Orleans and her people during and after 8/29 but also how BushCo has treated her in her effort to recover--and identified with her people, and consequently come down with "Katrina Brain." I feel the mental/emotional pain of those struggling to come back and wish there were more I was able do for them.

Besides, even though I live a safe distance from any coast, I am aware that central Illinois is subject to tornadoes and we even had a 5.2 earthquake 3 or so weeks ago. The New Madrid fault system runs under our feet.

Now you may be wondering exactly how an Illinois gal like myself could show the symptoms of "Katrina brain." Little cognitive glitches due to pre-occupation, for one. For example, when I wrote in an e-mail, "When you walk with a cain, people are awfully nice to you. As if I'd been thinking of the story of Cain and Abel. Or Sen. John McCain.

I think my "Katrina brain" comes out in my over-sensitivity--my short fuse. Which is why I find it so hard to deal with the way so many, even on this site, seem to have forgotten Katrina and New Orleans and the way the MSM and all candidates have been giving them short shrift. It's not only as if they've written off a valuable part of this country but also as if they're unaware that something similarly catastrophic could happen to their state or city next. And here's something that particularly saddens me and makes me almost physically ill--the way people deride New Orleans and Louisiana and her people.

And sometimes "Katrina brain" has the paradoxical effect on me where I know I need to write about New Orleans and Katrina to call them to this community's attention, but can't come up with things to say. I just feel emotionally drained.

When there's another disaster like the China earthquake, the Burma cyclone, or last fall's California wildfires, I flash back. I'll watch the news coverage and inevitably look for comparisons to Katrina, the flood, and how BushCo handled them. I'll notice the fact that China's govdernment responded more quickly to the quake than did BushCo to Katrina. Or the hypocrisy of how Bush has been protesting the fact that Burma hasn't been letting in foreign relief workers--when BushCo itself didn't let in relief supplies and rescuers from overseas as New Orleans drowned. It's as if BushCo had cruelly wanted people in Louisiana to die.

Lastly, when hurricane season rolls around, as this year's will about one and a half weeks from now, I become apprehensive even though I live so far from the sea. I'm just fearful of another Katrina and what it could do to a still-recovering New Orleans. And a Louisiana whose coastline has been washing away at the rate of a football field every half-hour. Hearing predictions that a storm could enter the Gulf raises my hackles (and, of course, I don't want to see one hit anyplace else on the US mainland, either.)

This diary has been difficult to finish because the way I identify so much with people in New Orleans I've also been experiencing what one of my NOLA friends calls "yin and yang" as if I were living there (as well as regarding several other matters in my own life I eventually plan to write about.) But I'd like to close this diary, which so far has been something of a downer, on a positive, if not inspiring note.

It sounds strange to speak of gifts from Katrina, but oddly, I received a few. Interestingly, for at least a month or two before Katrina hit, I'd been getting these awful near-migraines almost every day. But then Katrina hit and New Orleans drowned, and the headaches vanished to almost nothing. I still only rarely get such headaches anymore. It's as if Katrina, the flood, and the aftermath gave me something outside my head to focus on.

Then there are a couple of new interests sparked by the disaster. Such as the food. New Orleans-type food I can afford is hard to find around here, but soon after Katrina I first visited, and quickly developed an addiction to the food at, Popeye's, which not only has good affordable food and a wonderful NOLA-type ambiance including New Orleans, zydeco, blues, and other Louisiana music, but is also walking distance from my home. I eat lunch there almost every Sunday, and sometimes have ordered their jambalaya to go.

Now for music. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that in my youth when I visited New Orleans, I hadn't been interested in any of the distinctive kinds of music that can be found there or elsewhere in Louisiana. And I hadn't even heard of Dr. John, Marcia Ball, Eric Lindell, BeauSoleil, Irma Thomas, Tab Benoit, Buckwheat Zydeco, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, John Delafose, Rosie Ledet, or any of the other artists whose Louisiana music I now have in my collection. But now I'm familiar with their music, which is now one of my favorite kinds. So Katrina and the flood have had for me, as one of my NOLA friends has out it, its yin and yang.

About Me

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Midwest lover of New Orleans and of all things having to do with Louisiana.