Sunday, October 30, 2005

No FEMA Love for the Houma Nation

If you had asked me yesterday to name a Native American tribe in Louisiana, the only one I could have come up with is the Houma people (yes, I willingly admit my ignorance).

Well, according to the federal government, my ignorance knows no bounds because it doesn’t recognize the Houmas as an official Native American tribe. And, because of that, the Houma people didn't receive relief assistance for Hurricane Rita like the other officially recognized tribes:

The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe - both federally recognized - received mobile homes for displaced families and other supplies from Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. But the Houmas, who aren't recognized as a tribe by the federal government, said they were left to fend for themselves.

Terrebonne Parish, where many of the Houmas live, was hit harder by Rita than Katrina. The Houma people that applied for federal aid received it like any other non-tribe applicant. But this doesn’t take in account that members of a tribe are more than just a collection of unrelated individuals. When the federal government deals with tribes, it is like they are dealing with sovereign nations.

From the Kansas City Infozine:

"We treat the federally recognized tribes with public assistance directly through the tribal governments ... on a government-to-government basis," he [FEMA Tribal Liaison Joseph Hesbrook] said. "The Houma Nation would have gotten a little more direct help if they had federal status."

According to the above linked article, the United Houma Nation is not a federally recognized tribe because “it lacked a distinct community, a leader and records of descendants.” Also, the Houmas don’t dress like the Washington Redskins mascot and do the tomahawk chop like at Atlanta Braves games.

And, in case you’re wondering where the President stands on the sovereignty of Native American nations, watch this video, taken in August 2004, to see him (painfully) say this:

"Tribal sovereignty means that it's sovereign. I mean, you're a – you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities."

And, yes, that is laughter in the background.

The Next Big City to Flood Could Be…


That’s what the Sacramento Bee says.

Sacramento's levees offer less protection than those in many other cities. Officials worry they could fail or overtop if a large late winter or early spring storm system brought more water than they were designed to handle.

Wow, sound familiar? Levees may fail in a strong storm. It’s crazy to hear that a Katrina-sized disaster can happen to another even bigger city. Let’s hope they do something about it before it happens.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Big Erl Needs Help

Based on their record profits announced just a few days ago, you would think Big Erl is doing just fine. So, why, in the run up to these profits, was the federal government doing this?

On October 7, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that would give federal insurance to oil refiners whose expansion projects are delayed by lawsuits or regulatory snags. It also put the Energy Department in charge of permits for new refinery projects as a way to speed up approvals.


Less than three months ago, the president signed into law a Republican-written energy bill giving $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives to the energy industry.

Subsidies? Tax breaks? Incentives? Fast-tracking permits at the expense of the environment? Is that what you do for an industry that is about to announce record profits? How big does Big Erl want to get? Didn’t anyone see that Big Erl probably didn’t need any help? There’s no way that Katrina and Rita could be the cause of these crazy profits, so someone must have seen them coming.

Our coastal wetlands (and therefore New Orleans) don’t have a chance if Big Erl has this much pull in Washington.

Let’s Just Blame the Locals, Especially If They are Democrats

Last Thursday:

Bodies of people killed by Hurricane Katrina went uncollected for more than a week in the New Orleans area as the federal government waited for Louisiana's governor to decide what to do with them, according to memos released Thursday by a Republican-led House committee.

Translation of the committee's findings:

See, no Republicans screwed up here. It was that Democrat Governor of Louisiana that delayed the recovery of all those dead people. (Did we mention she was a woman?).


A company assigned the delicate duty of collecting Hurricane Katrina's dead in Louisiana wanted out of the federal job days later, complaining of a "bureaucratic quagmire" in its dealings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Kenyon International asked FEMA to find someone else to do the work in a Sept. 11 letter to Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, head of the agency's response to Katrina. The disaster management company stayed on the job, however, and signed a contract with the state of Louisiana days later.

Translation of the governor's actions:

The federal government FEMA’ed up the recovery operation just like it screwed up the rescue operation, and the state of LA had to come rescue the recovery.

That’s a Lot of Backup

The headline says it all:

US has 161,000 troops in Iraq, highest of the war

That’s more troops in Iraq than when we invaded in 2003. But wait, it’s just backup:

U.S. commanders have said American-trained Iraqi government security forces took the lead in protecting the voting process in the referendum and would do so again for the Dec. 15 elections, with U.S. troops serving as backup.

Meanwhile, Today in Iraq.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hurricane Resistant Houses

CBS Homes Florida, LLC, builds houses with fiberglass skeletons and panels. On their website, they claim:

CBS structural framing is termite proof, water proof, mold proof, earthquake resistant, and withstands hurricane and tornado force winds in excess of 350 MPH (130 MPH destroys wood and concrete block construction).

Termite Proof? Sweet, we could use that down here in New Orleans.

Water proof? I’m down.

Mold proof? Check.

Earthquake resistant? Um, I guess you can’t be too careful.

Withstands hurricane force winds in excess of 350 MPH? Priceless.

Why aren’t we ordering some of these yesterday? Put some fiberglass homes up on stilts and you got yourself a hurricane proof city. The home owner can come up with what it would cost to rebuild a traditional wood frame house, and the federal government can chip in and pay whatever else is needed to do it with fiberglass. This way, if the government pays for prevention now, it won’t have to pay more later.

And, check out what labor is needed:

A crew of 5 transports and erects the exterior support walls with a crane and adds the roof in one day. One 2,000 square foot house can be built in 48 minutes on the production line or in 2 hours on-site using local labor.

Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Governor, what else do you need?

Prezidentin’ Is Hard Work

Here’s the transcript of President G.W. Beard’s (see previous post for facial hair reference) remarks on the resignation of Scooter Libby.

Now here’s the translation:

It’s hard goddamn work being the President. And I ain’t got time to be talkin’ up here about indictments and what not. I gotta a job to do. And it’s hard work. The only thing Scooter did wrong was get caught. So I’m gonna look you media fellas in the eyes and tell you he’s a good guy who worked hard - just like me. It’s hard work.

Then I’m gonna tell you that we got a system here. And it says you’re innocent until proven guilty. Then I’m gonna laugh out loud as I think of all those Ay-rabs down in Gitmo who will never get a trial. It’s hard work being so funny.

Then, before I go, I’m gonna tell you what to report on instead of this scandal. I’m protecting the American people. I’m getting the economy moving. And I am going to name somebody to the Supreme Court. And if that don’t work, my next stunt will be jumping the Snake River Canyon in a rocket.

Thank you very much.

What he didn’t say was breaking the law would not be tolerated in his White House. I guess he’s already got enough to worry about, with the hard work and all.

George W. Bush = Facial Hair

Wow, Stephen Pizzo comes to battle with a shotgun. Via Cursor, I came across his website News for Real for the first time and read this post entitled “What Now?” In it, he calls G.W. Bush a “‘beard’ for others” and a “Forest Gump from the Dark Side.”

He also sums up why the country is lost right now:

It's a moment new to America, a leader who himself needs to be led, now unled.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, so my dislike of G.W. Bush is not a partisan play. He really is a tool, in the sense that he is manipulated by the evil forces of the world to further their messed up agenda which only benefits themselves. I think this was evident in the federal response after Katrina.

So, basically, what Stephen Pizzo said.

Did I mention that he calls W. a “beard?” A fucking beard. That’s awesome.

No Money? We Just Need More Inmates Making Phone Calls

There’s really nothing to this article “Katrina dries up Sheriff's Office revenue.” It sounds like only vacant jobs will be eliminated in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and their surplus, plus a loan, will keep services going for a while.

But, I found this bit interesting:

And the Sheriff's Office loses out on inmate telephone fees, which bring in an estimated $670,000 a year, Rivera said.

How much are phone calls in prison? They must have my phone plan.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Looking for Common Ground?

Here it is. And here’s how you can help.

Common Ground Collective has been serving the Algiers community since right after Katrina. Read about what they are doing. And if you think you can do it in your area, do it. If you want to help them, help them. This isn’t thinking outside the box. It’s thinking green, something we need more of in New Orleans.

Big Erl’s Getting Bigger

A few hurricanes temporarily shutting down your production apparently isn’t bad for business if you’re Big Erl.

Oil profits are exploding.

ConocoPhillips, up 89%.

Exxon Mobil, up 75%.

Shell, up 68%.

BP, up 34%.

Marathon Oil, net income more than tripled.

Chevron will release numbers tomorrow.

From the above linked article:

The world's five biggest publicly traded oil companies -- Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Chevron and France's Total SA -- are expected to combine for 2005 profit of $106.7 billion, based on average analyst estimates in surveys by Thomson Financial. That would mark a 26 percent increase from last year.

A lot of that oil is produced and refined in the Gulf coast, at the expense of the coast itself. A lot of canals were dug out through the wetlands to move oil products around, contributing to the wetlands loss that allowed Katrina’s storm surge to pound Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parish, and to break the levees that flooded the city of New Orleans.

Pony up, Big Erl. $106.7 billion is a lot of money. Some of that can go to fixing what you broke.

10/28/05 UPDATE: Chevron up only 12%. Boo hoo. Darn hurrickens.

There’s 50 States in the Union, Right?

Well, when it comes to the best work environments by state, we aren’t even in the top fifty. Louisiana ranks 51 in the Work Environment Index which “rates working environments in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., in terms of average pay, employment opportunities, employee benefits, percentage of low-income workers, fair treatment between genders and ability for employees to unionize.”

I can’t say I’m surprised. Louisiana has been bending over backwards for businesses at the expense of workers for as long as I can tell. We sold our soul, as well as the coastal wetlands, to the oil industry. Chemical plants and oil refineries pollute our air and water. Look how Tom Benson and the Saints jerk the city of New Orleans around. And we rely so heavily on the tourism industry that pays wages which only contribute to our working poor.

If you were shocked by the scenes of poverty in the flood waters of Katrina, be shocked by this, too. It is not cool to accept this crap anymore.

Speaking of New Orleans. . .

I started this weblog four days before I packed my family in a car and ran from a storm called Katrina. I wanted to speak for my city, New Orleans. I wanted to promote what was going right in my city, shine a light on what was going wrong, and hold the powerful accountable for the plight of the powerless. While I believe these goals to be valiant before the storm, I see them as essential after Katrina. The problems of my city are now out in the open. The solutions are scattered somewhere in the debris that still lines our streets weeks after the hurricane made landfall. As New Orleanians return to their city, they are going to talk about what happened. And they are going to talk about it like only New Orleanians can. And they are going to find solutions like only New Orleanians can.

Down here, we speak a different language. We speak New Orleans.

On this blog, I’m going to speak New Orleans. Feel free to listen.