Saturday, January 31, 2009

One big thing I chewed on from the Beyond Jena symposium today:

It could well take a nation of millions to hold the righteous back...

...but all it takes most times is a close-knit neighborhood or group of a few to keep good people from doing the right things.

More on this later. Must sleep.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I'm not gonna say this doesn't hurt, because it does. A great deal.

At the same time, however, he has given us a framework on which to keep building our case against our local government - a government that Cerasoli himself has compared to that of a developing country such as Sierra Leone - and to eventually bring it to light, rotting extremities and all. We cannot leave that foundation to decay. That is not an option.

That wall of the entity that is "the city of New Orleans" will most likely deserve its own museum at some point in the future:

As Cerasoli started luring a pedigreed, experienced staff, he also started trying to understand the machinery of New Orleans municipal government.

He found few answers, and an ever-growing list of questions. Just figuring out who runs what has proved an immense challenge, with a government splintered into scores of agencies, commissions and quasi-governmental nonprofit groups, some with separate dedicated tax-revenue streams, their own auditors and scant scrutiny.

So far, Cerasoli has put together a list of 140 such city entities, including such curiosities as the Delgado-Albania Plantation Commission. His inspectors found records of a New Orleans Planetarium Commission, created in 1986, but couldn't confirm whether it still exists, or ever did.

"One main goal has just been to simply identify the entity that is the city of New Orleans, " Cerasoli said. "Nobody can give you an organizational chart."

So Cerasoli and his team have started one on a wall inside their office in the Federal Reserve building, a project he said might take years to accurately complete. Cerasoli cannot say whether the "vastly decentralized" structure, unlike any city Cerasoli has ever come across, leads to any specific wrongdoing or failures. But he said it surely makes it tough to track government and thus provides countless opportunities for chicanery.

"I call it the shadow government, " Cerasoli said.

Really, folks, we have to keep doing what we're doing. We cannot take this pressure off the people and the agencies that are supposed to help us, not hurt us. Keep voicing that support for the office Cerasoli worked so hard to get started. Don't let the city tie up its funding. Make sure that this man's replacement keeps up the good, hard work.

And it might be exaggeration on my part, but I think this man gave us a taste of what contact with a true "lamed-vavnik" is like.

Be well, Mr. Cerasoli. And thank you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

G-Bitch (whose site is back! Woohoo!!!!) tells us of a good lady who died recently, the promises by Bush himself to rebuild her home left unfulfilled, broken.

Varg takes a good look at why the recent brouhaha over violent crime is leaving him cold:

It goes back to the 2007 crime march and the belief that city government can somehow make the improvements needed. If the current administration were in a position to take the lead in the fight against crime, they would have done so after the march. Begging them to help now is fruitless. If the administration was involved, it would show. If they were going to improve, they would have by now. I haven’t seen the Mayor address the latest round and I haven’t heard much out of the Chief other than promises to improve.

And I think for them to discuss solutions will only lead them back to 2007.

In the 2007 march, Nagin primarily used the crime cameras as one of his remedies to our growing problems. Read the story here. For him or any of his administration to revisit the 2007 efforts would mean they would have to bring up the crime cameras again. Thus, talking openly and honestly about what they are doing, what is working and what isn’t in the fight against crime, is to potentially bring up the stunningly ineffective crime cameras and all that they entail. And they probably entail a lot of sins.

Oyster is convinced Dambala and IG Cerasoli are on to something regarding those crime cameras. Only time will tell. And disregard that content notice when you click on Dambala's link, folks. Looks like somebody complained to Blogger. Perhaps we oughta complain back that posting the Eels ain't all that offensive. Really.

Keep an eye out for further installments of Big Red Cotton's What Would A Good Mayor Do? series, in which she compares the actions of Hizzoner the Walking Id with those of mayors in other cities. Anybody game for starting a police chief comparison series?

And, in case you haven't seen it yet, check Taylor the Teacher's blog. Update your blogrolls accordingly. She calls Paul Vallas out on the fallacy that every high school student in the RSD has a laptop. And damn, man, she deserves waaay more than just a hug for all the other crap that is happening in her school, as does Ms Dorophoria. For every sunny article that is coming out on how things are improving in the public schools here, there is still another side to that equation:

Earlier this month, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held hearings to determine whether underperforming schools in East Baton Rouge and Caddo parishes would be taken over by the recovery school district.

"Well, welcome to my nightmare," Givens, a BESE member representing New Orleans, said at the time.

Some observers assumed that Givens was simply opposed to the fact that failing schools in Orleans Parish were being subsumed by the RSD after the failure of the federal levees flooded the city in 2005.

But Givens' comment had as much to do with the manner of the takeover as with the takeover itself.

"The schools were taken over without a hearing at a time when people weren't in New Orleans," Givens told me in an interview.

"That's what I meant when I said nobody came to our defense," she said.

Indeed the hearing about East Baton Rouge and Caddo Parish schools was remarkable merely for the fact that it occurred.

When New Orleans schools were taken over, no such hearings were held.

"Nobody sat down and looked at anything other than the fact that New Orleans was under water and here was a chance to take over these schools," she said.

"There have been no public hearings pre- or post-Katrina concerning school takeovers in Orleans. The manner in which takeovers around the state are being handled is completely different from what happened here," Givens said.

"While some of us were still on rooftops, the decisions were already being made to take schools over," Givens said.

Think about this folks: we are still under the emergency order that changed state law regarding the participation of parents and teachers in the restructuring of our public schools.:

After the storm, then-Governor Kathleen Blanco issued an Executive Order that waived, among others, a provision requiring two thirds of teachers, and a majority of parents to agree to the conversion of a public school to a charter school. That Executive Order remains in effect today, though the “emergency” it proclaimed has clearly passed.

Indeed, the parents and teachers in East Baton Rouge and Caddo Parish ought to thank their lucky stars the state didn't remember, in their case, that the damn law was still on the books.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Well, it's happened.

My son had a baby today. His first.

Thankfully, I'm not a grandma yet.

Thankfully, this baby doesn't need to be fed, bathed, or changed regularly.

It's actually a good-sized baby for a small plastic one inserted in a Carnival concoction, however.

He-ey Mardi Gras!
It can take talking to a kid to realize how unnatural the world can be sometimes.

I've walked through the Jaguar Jungle exhibit at the Audubon Zoo many a time accepting its setting as simply background. No, it's not really Chichen-Itza I'm walking through. No, I am not walking past true ceremonial objects, true depictions of Mayan gods, or true temples. It is all an attempt at jazzing up an exhibit of anteaters, jaguars, macaws, toucans, and tamarins with some slightly artful context in which to appreciate where the animals come from. And then it all comes crashing in when your son takes one look at a sign about the Maya religion, asks you to read it, and then asks about the sacrifices of animals such as jaguars.

"Why did they sacrifice them, Mom?"
"They thought it would make their gods happy."
"And they sacrificed them in temples?"
"Yes, they did."
"What did the temples look like?"
"Like that one over there (pointing to the mock temple by the jaguars' enclosure), only much, much bigger."
(horrified child) "They sacrificed jaguars in there???"
(reassuringly) "No, no, not in that one over there. In temple cities built by the Maya in South America."
"Why don't we think that anymore?"
"I think we've realized that animals are living beings that have some right to live, too. Killing them won't really determine much of how nature works, like storms and harvests of food, or who is victorious in battle."

I realized then that having a mock-up of a Mayan temple at the zoo is kinda screwy. It doesn't really transport me to another world entirely - if it did, I'd most likely have to run for my life from the jaguars. I'd have to climb the temple ziggurat at Chichen-Itza slowly and take a massive rest once I got to the top, most likely. And I would have to come absolutely face-to-face with the fact that I'm a stranger in a land not my own.

Know where else we are all strangers in an unfamiliar place? In that land called Depression, with some peninsulas named Post-Traumatic Stress and some coves of Clinical D. There are even some nearby islands of Bipolar and some Schizophrenic Atolls. Oh, sure, just enough stuff works in Depression to make life tolerable, but there is always something, or a number of little things, on which one walks a tightrope without a net to catch him/her.

The scariest thing about this land is it sits on the exact same spot where we are, at all times - but many of us refuse to see it. There are a number of reasons for this, one of the biggest ones being the stigma attached to seeing Depression oneself when so many have dismissed it as a lost continent akin to Atlantis. "Forget it. You're just tired. Get a good night's sleep and get back to work."


It's tough to forget. Yeah, you probably are mightily fatigued. And good night's rests are probably beyond your grasp. Get back to work??? What the hell?????

This latest onslaught of shock and awe in the form of violent crime in our midst once again and the fact that we are still not addressing its causes and its prevention is also a time for re-examination of ourselves. Of what we believe. Why we are here. Are we really doing what's best for our selves and our families? When do the joys of living here outweigh the hardships and the horrors?

The people who are constantly diving in there to bring us these stories deserve a great deal of help in this regard, whether they are activists, bloggers, journalists, or just living their lives and using their eyes and ears. A book on the nonfiction writer Iris Chang that examined the mental state that led to her suicide also took a look at the culture within journalism of reporting trauma - a culture that encouraged the people reporting fires, wars, the effects of disasters both natural and unnatural to suck it all in and not to scratch too deeply beneath the surface of the effects exposure to such terrible events can have - and found an amazing effort to try to honestly address these problems in the journalistic community.

I hope it takes flight and becomes more established all over the world.

I think the bloggers here may need to take some advantage of it, as well as the journalists. This city is a hard, hard place. The violence here, the problems with education, law enforcement, our-largely tourism-based economy, racism, the efforts to overcome obstacles in rebuilding or even keeping our homes, our politicians and politics, health care - it gets crazy.

Getting help to cope is not a weakness.

It is simply giving you a sharper focus on what needs to be done. It can give you the tools to face what has happened to you and may still be happening to you. It can give you the strength to pick up and continue the struggle that is life - because, by God, you are needed. You are appreciated, no matter who you are. You can better appreciate some crushing, yet uplifting truths, and go on.

But really, the Mayan temple thing in the middle of Audubon Zoo is still messed up.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sign up for crime alerts through texting at NOLA Crime Alerts:


A few reasons to take this step come from Amy:

...I allow myself to read - the comments, the stories, the articles - and it makes me very, very afraid. This isn’t to say New Orleans is a bad place to live. Again, I love New Orleans - it just scares the hell out of me...

...Maybe it has to do with being mugged at 4:00 in the afternoon, walking my daughter home from school on Carrollton Avenue. Or maybe it has to do with going to bed, looking out the window, and seeing someone on my porch, attempting to still my plastic lawn chairs that I bought for $4 each at Dollar General. Or maybe it is the comments made to me when I pick my daughter up from her publis school. Or maybe I am just not cut out to live in the city, any city. I have developed the coping skills for living in a city, especially this city. But I love this city. I really do.

...and Times-Pic writer Keith Spera:

Baby asleep, dinner plates put away, the evening reverie of Jan. 5 is shattered by a half-dozen sharp reports, tightly clustered at irregular intervals.

Through the open kitchen window, the gunshots sound as close as the neighbor's yard. We later learn they originated three blocks away at North Dupre and St. Ann streets, fired at 47-year-old Kirk Dugar Sr.

Thirty-six hours later, his blood still pooled on the black steel steps where he died. A blue cigarette lighter lay near a scrap of crime scene tape.

It was not the first time I've heard someone die.

Once again, the lives of all of New Orleans' citizens are at stake.

What will we do this time?

UPDATE, 5:27 PM: More sections of the city have been added:
Email to let them know your section of the city needs it, too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Full transcript of the Buffa's meeting (with pictures!) is up at New Orleans Slate.

Interim CTO Harrison Boyd can be emailed at Encourage him to adopt NOLAStat!

From lunanola's comment on the previous post:

That's five armed robberies and one armed carjacking since December 18, 2008 in the immediate vicinity of Gov. Nicholls and Dauphine Streets (within the month immediately preceding Wendy's murder). To date, no arrests are known to have been made in connection with any of these incidents.

Additionally, reported armed robberies within the jurisdiction of the 8th District have recently and dramatically increased. August and September totaled six reports each, and September tallied seven; but November and December both racked up 15 reported armed robberies for each month (30 total in a two-month span, more than half again the number for the prior three months' time combined). I can't help but wonder if this sharp increase is also reflected in the stats for the other districts within the city.

The next meeting is scheduled for 12:00 Noon on Saturday, 01/31/09, again at Buffa's (1001 Esplanade Avenue, at the corner of Burgundy and Esplanade). Shortly after today's meeting concluded, Camiznola received a phone call from Chief Riley involving an apology for his lack of attendance today due to (apparently) some confusion as to when the meeting would occur. He has, however, agreed to attend this next meeting on January 31st, but noted that his appearance will be brief.

Camiznola has requested that, in order to make the best use of the limited amount of time when Chief Riley is in attendance, we prepare a list of questions we'd like Riley to answer prior to this meeting. If you have a question you'd like addressed, please email it to her at at your earliest opportunity.

Friday, January 23, 2009 Vieux Carre forum members lunanola and Camiznola got the ball rolling on the meeting at Buffa's Lounge today on Esplanade. When I arrived at the meeting, the attendees were asking City Councilmembers James Carter and Arnie Fielkow about the system Citizen Crime Watch founder Brian Denzer presented to them last Thursday known as NOLAStat and why it wasn't being adopted. Fielkow urged the people gathered there to strongly urge the new CTO, whoever it may be, to adopt Denzer's proposal...but, in the meantime, contact interim CTO Harrison Boyd about it. (That number, not given by Fielkow, is 658-7900)

There was some mention by Fielkow of the fact that no representatives of the NOPD were at Buffa's. He said the police needed a formal invitation from the organizers of the Buffa's meeting in order to send one of their officers to the meeting (which then prompted someone to ask at a later point in the meeting if that invitation needed to be engraved). The problem with that, someone else protested, is that whenever a representative of the NOPD came to meetings, the song remained the same: "We're doing what we can." "We're going to keep working on it." "Things will get better."

"Are the police doing foot patrols?" Carter asked. The whole room resounded with NOs.

"You never see police doing foot patrols," a woman said.

"How much longer will the military police be here, 'cause I feel safer with them here than with NOPD," a man at another table declared.

Fielkow said that what needed to come out of the Buffa's meeting was a "laundry list" of grievances, and then he could facilitate a meeting between some chosen representatives of the assembled group and Chief Warren Riley. His "throw down" came later.

BIG fact: in the vicinity of where Wendy Byrne was murdered, there were five armed robberies and one carjacking.

"We want the police to do their job."

Problem is, the police were not in attendance at the meeting. It is clear that there are serious issues with trust between the police and citizens - there were a few stories told of people blown off, intimidated, or arrested themselves when they were victims of crimes.

Who do the citizens call for complaints against the police? Internal Affairs is a start: 658-6800

Someone proposed helping everyone in attendance at the meeting get concealed carry licenses at $350-$400 a pop, since nothing freaks out the police more than an armed populace (nothing would freak me out more, either, actually).

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro urged everyone to keep trying to register complaints against the police when intimidation instances and other police misdeeds occurred, and if all were still fruitless in their efforts to hold the police accountable in reporting crime accurately and civilly, to contact the DA's office.

Bottom line: the right people to talk to were not at Buffa's today...but it is questionable whether or not they would have even listened today, much less taken the criticism and the tired anger of all in attendance and made some constructive changes in how things are done in fighting the city's massive crime problems.

It starts at the top of the NOPD.

And the top, according to Buffa's meeting attendee Jimmy Delery, used to run interference for former chief Eddie Compass, telling film crews who had probing queries about the NOPD, "We refuse to talk if you're going to ask those questions."

We keep asking the questions, Chief Riley.

Eventually, you will have to answer them - because it is our lives you are putting on the line.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

When talks about never again allow(ing) such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response and all, I hope this isn't what they will have in mind:

Kthnx, LOLcat Gubmint!
(I've been thinking about this post for the past couple of weeks, and I keep finding new ways to start it and discarding those new ways in the face of other troubles, other thoughts, other news. Not much else to do with this but to dive in and see what happens. I have to get it out some way...)

I started reading a book that has been in my possession for a number of years, but has rarely been cracked open - perhaps once, when I read the introduction a while ago, and then consigned the book to my shelves of Judaica, prayer books, and other related works. Even though my edition dates from 1987, what I have read thus far slams me right back in the present-day Israel-Gaza conflict, and it ought to do the same for those leaders who are charged with ending the killings on both sides.

I found myself indignant that Israel was being compared to the Klan in a recent thread on someone else's blog, and I got angry. So angry that I found myself spouting a combination of knee-jerk pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish "right to exist", "right to be safe now that Israel has unilaterally pulled out of the occupied territories", "right to be left in peace now that the settlers have been wrenched from what they thought could be resettled as Judea and Samaria", and then trying to temper that with the fact that, deep down, I just want the violence to stop, as do many in Israel. None of this is serving the Israelis or the Palestinian Arabs. Hamas operatives sheltering themselves from IDF attacks behind their family members, and Israeli children running for shelter when a rocket from Gaza is about to hit in 15 seconds or less doesn't further the causes of any of these peoples.

However, the ultimate punchline to the sick joke that is the latest conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is how the rest of the world is acting towards these people. Somebody has to be right, and somebody has to be wrong, and everybody in-between has to suffer for it all.

Arabs who make peace with Israel have to do it cautiously, without looking like they are giving too much away to have peace, unless, like Anwar Sadat, they pay for a larger gesture, such as a treaty, with their lives. The case of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, which had not happened at the time the book I am currently reading was published, showed that Israelis were not immune to the extremism of the religious right in their midst, either, a state of affairs that had only been simmering throughout the country since Menachem Begin's leadership of Israel and even before that. An article in a recent issue of The Economist stated that there have been precious few moments over the past century during which both sides have embraced the idea of two states at the same time. The most promising moment of all came at the beginning of this decade, with Mr Clinton’s near-miss at Camp David. But now, with the rise of Hamas and the war in Gaza, the brief period of relative hope is in danger of flickering out.

Somebody, everybody, do me a huge favor and forget about who is right and who is wrong. Kick history out the door for a few minutes, dammit. Yes, many have died up to this point on both sides. Stop it. Please.

I'm dealing with the here and the now. And what I saw this past weekend in religious school at my synagogue shows that my own people, secular American Jews, need to grow up a tad and quit presenting things to our young 'uns such as large maps of Israel that are whoo-eee neat, but do not mark the West Bank and Gaza on there at all. The West Bank is demarcated, sure, but only as Judea and Samaria. I thought Begin was dead. Give this a rest. And in Israel itself, allowing large numbers of ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews, many of whom are not convinced that Israel is a real nation anyhow because the Messiah did not found it back in 1948, to hold these views and have them influence policy in the Knesset will constantly keep Israel in conflict with its neighbors. More of them need to get out of their strict observances and their military draft exemptions and see what the hell is really going on. Just a start.

What needs to happen on the part of the Palestinian Arabs, though, is the end of the idea that replacing hope with jihad will get them what they want. This is not just their fault, it is the fault of the entire Arab world. Again, it is a problem of neither side being on the same page at the same time, and the people of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Yemen, and the other Arab nations in the Middle East did not help here, and are still not helping much. It was - and still is - much easier to encourage the people down the path to perpetual war with Israel by denying them full citizenship in the other Arab nations, much more manly on their part to encourage the rise of the PLO and Fatah, of Hezbollah and Hamas, than to actually put their heads together and help these people become a nation of their own side-by-side with Israel. The efforts the terrorist operatives have put into this ongoing conflict have robbed their own citizens of their rights, their families, and their own lives.

Same page, everybody. Same page.

If each side persists in seeing the other as cardboard pawns devoid of human characteristics, and the rest of the world buys into the whole thing, there will only be more war.

And no, I don't expect this to be solved right off, because to solve this takes massive amounts of work on both sides, for extended periods of time, to see this through. Those who are willing to do so will need to be protected to the teeth so that they can continue this important work...for they will need all the support they can get.

Yes, that's my coupla shekels on all of this. And I know I will keep thinking about it a great deal, especially now that people are looking to our new president to see how he will treat this ongoing conflict.

Tread very, very carefully, Mr Obama.

Update, 1-24: Some other stuff for Obama's envoy to the Middle East to consider is in this article by Gershom Gorenberg.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sooo, it's the day after "Moving Day" in D.C., as my son called it.

Only one thing left for all of us to do, now that all the hoopla is over:

Giving us a good idea about where we are with some of these changes is Oliver Wang at Poplicks: only needs to look at the murder of Oscar Grant and countless other examples of Black and Brown bodies under assault by police violence to know we haven't reached the promised land yet. The social mobility of African Americans - as a community - is still largely marginalized, even if specific individuals are exceptions to that rule (Obama being the most obvious example). And while the "For Whites Only" signs have come down, it doesn't stand to reason that alone means self-hood and dignity has been restored along with it.

Obviously, I can't speak for Dr. King but I think it's safe to assume that he would have seen Obama's election as a deeply meaningful step forward in the emancipation of a nation; not just for Blacks but for all peoples. However, that would not have been the fulfillment of his dream. Obama's election is symbolic - at least right now. Time will only tell if it's transformative for our nation as a whole and it's that transformation that is absolutely, irrevocably key to the "Dream" speech. So yes, it is a marvel to consider that tomorrow, the day after MLK's birthday, a Black man will be sworn in as President. I revel in that historic moment. But it's a small step in a larger movement that has yet to be fulfilled; that is far, far, far from being fulfilled.

That whole vision of "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers" can't be read into Obama's election. Far from how it's been spun, his election cannot be read as absolute proof of the transcendence of racial attitudes or resistance; as I tried to stress a few months ago, Obama's lost the White vote nationally (as has every Democratic candidate since LBJ). What has fundamentally changed in America since the 1960s isn't necessarily racial attitudes - it's demographics and that has as much to do with Obama's victory as any major shifts in beliefs or prejudices.

My first order of change: get the hell off the Obamicon.Me site. Just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From Minority Weirdos:

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

UPDATE, 4:50 PM: Big Red Cotton has the MSNBC broadcast of the oath and the inaugural address up.

From the Additional Issues section of


President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He and Vice President Biden will take steps to ensure that the federal government will never again allow such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response to occur.

President Obama swiftly responded to Hurricane Katrina. Citing the Bush Administration's "unconscionable ineptitude" in responding to Hurricane Katrina, then-Senator Obama introduced legislation requiring disaster planners to take into account the specific needs of low-income hurricane victims. Obama visited thousands of Hurricane survivors in the Houston Convention Center and later took three more trips to the region. He worked with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to introduce legislation to address the immediate income, employment, business, and housing needs of Gulf Coast communities.

President Barack Obama will partner with the people of the Gulf Coast to rebuild now, stronger than ever.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy belated Blogday to me, folks...

I spent it heading to one last Prospect .1 venue: the Hefler Warehouse welcome center. And now I can't decide what my favorite souvenir of the whole biennial is...

Maybe this? Click on the image to enlarge it:

by artist Dave McKenzie

...or perhaps it is the Prospect .1 Music CD I picked up for a reduced price at the welcome center?

Check the tracks:

  • Exit To Mystery Street - Paul Sanchez
  • Good Neighbor - John Boutte
  • Peace, Love, & Understanding - Big Sam's Funky Nation
  • Backyard Groove - Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove
  • Dumaine Street Blues - Glen David Andrews and the Lazy Six
  • Over In The Glory Land - Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • Powell's Place - Shannon Powell
  • Don't Be Sure - Paul Sanchez
  • Talkin' - Susan Cowsill
  • Bah-Duey-Duey - Big Sam's Funky Nation
  • Reefer Song - Glen David Andrews and the Lazy Six
  • SP - Shannon Powell
  • That's Wassup - Kalup Linzy Presents
  • Right Foot-Rebirth Got Fire-Feel Like Funkin' It Up - Rebirth Brass Band
Dan Cameron does know his music...

And it was a nice way to spend a chilly Friday afternoon.

Though I now wish more people would get to spend time walking through this:

Takashi Horisaki's Social Dress New Orleans - latex and cheesecloth castings of the walls of 1941 Caffin Avenue 730 days after the flood. It was like walking through the remnants of a living, breathing entity, now departed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I haven't talked about the little guy lately, in part because I got carried away last week with all manner of local doings, and also in part because he turned six last month. Six. Serious little boy-dom has arrived.

His reading skills have improved. He's starting to take some interest in making art. The following watercolors of his deserve frames. Yes, this could be a biased, proud mama boasting, but hey, judge for yourselves. The titles are his:

Morning, approx. 4"x6"

Hurricane, approx. 6"x7"

Of course, some things just don't change. Driving him to school this morning was yet another opportunity for some deep thoughts on the Universe from the kid, followed by some heavy questions like: "Mom, why'd they kill Martin Luther King?"

Yes, it was another ohGodholdontothesteeringwheelanddonthitthegasstation moment.

I didn't learn what prompted the question until I checked out the work in his cubby today:

I told my son that Dr. King died due to the radical belief he preached and fought for - that we are all equal regardless of our color, creed, or gender and that we'd better start living that way, and have that reflected in the laws of the land. The above "mini-book" template doesn't bother to say what the unfair laws were that Dr. King protested in the 1963 March on Washington, and that bothers me. Unfair how exactly? Hmmmm...

My son dealt with some unfairness earlier in the week in a way that would have had Dr. King frowning mightily upon him. Perturbed that a child kept humming behind him even after the little guy had told the hummer repeatedly to stop, my son seized the next moment the hummer passed close to take a small wooden mallet and tap the kid on the head with it - boink!

Reaction to this kindergarten justice was swift. The little guy was placed in a time-out spot in response to the hummer's cry of unpleasant surprise, and all he had to say in his own defense was, "He wouldn't...stop....humming!!!!"

Is it any wonder this song comes to mind?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Moms Rising needs your assistance, Louisianians!

There's this thing making its way through Congress known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It passed in the House despite our newly elected congressman voting against it (boooooo). Now it needs your help getting through the Senate.

Two ways to do this:

-Send a message to the Senate via this link.

-Give Mary Landrieu a call TODAY and tell her you want her to vote yes on this important legislation.

And if you need any more incentive to take such actions, try calculating the average forty-year period career wage gap in your state with the help of this link. I'm trying to find a way to post the calculator on my sidebar even as you read.

Make us proud, Mary!

Update, 8:33 PM: Via E, who started it, vote for real flood protection at, and make sure it ends up on President Obama's desk. When the numbers get into the thousands, it has a better chance of making it there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

All right.

Last week was a rollercoaster ride of New Orleanian proportions as far as the local news went. I was wondering if I ought to start getting up on my husband's side of the bed, but he's kind of in the way, so I'm chalking it all up to just one of those weeks.

I CAN start this week off better, though, by ac-CEN-tchew-ating the positive, 'cause there is a good amount of it as well:

- New Orleans Ladder deserves long-overdue kudos for his 2008 Delta Prime Award from Monkeyfister. This one has netted the Editilla some nice blog candy and some recognition for helping keep New Orleans issues alive. Keep it up, man!

- Of course, everyone in the NOLA blogpocheh has given Karen Gadbois a hearty mazel tov on The Gambit naming her one of its New Orleanians of the Year, along with Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenburg, the founders of the St. Bernard Project. Give 'em all a big hand.

Plus, the redesigned, renamed Gambit keeps on keepin' on with its current cover story on New Orleans' inspector general, Robert Cerasoli. Go read...once the Best of New Orleans website updates itself, that is...

- Ethan Brown, whose latest article of note took a look at the Walking Id, is now blogging at TalkLeft - news gleaned via the treif Erster man.

- Mark Folse got the best of his Wet Bank Guide posts up and at 'em and more-or-less polished enough to be published under the title Carry Me Home, available at online and at deVille Books (134 Carondelet Street) locally. I'll just consider the three copies I purchased for the hollerdays collectors' editions due to the presence of the fairly typical Folse typos...
UPDATE, 1-14: Include in that list, folks! Mazel tov, Mark!

-Rising Tide is sponsoring Beyond Jena: A Forum on Bloggers of Color, Education, and Social Justice in New Orleans. Register now for the January 31 conference at Xavier University, organized by Editor B and featuring some familiar faces amongst its participants. Go on, register!

- I got nominated for a Bloggie by Holly of Cold Spaghetti. Being the broad that I am, I reciprocated her nomination and tacked on a few more of my own from amongst the local blogpocheh. You have until 9 PM CST to represent more blogging New Orleanians. Don't be daunted by the size of the nominating page, just fill in what you can. Perhaps some of us can get the $20.09 the blogosphere owes us, by God!

Anybody else got anything good to share? 'Cause I'm all about the good, better, best news today...and, hopefully, for the rest of this week.

This crazy mama's inquiring mind wants to know.

Update, 8:33 PM: Errol Laborde weighs in on the side of the parishioners:

The church initiated raids on parishioners of two churches. Those churches could have been saved had the bishop, and his advisors not be so obstinate. Now the question is what to do in response. There are few choices, but here are some considerations...

...Give Up. That, of course, is what the Archdiocese wants, but to do so would betray the spirit of the laity who have fought for and reformed Catholicism through the centuries. There will be a fatigue factors. The protesters have to get on with their lives and the Archbishop wins by doing nothing, but the message needs to be kept alive.

...Pray. Praying, we assume, has been tried already. Nevertheless, it is never too late for, well, a Hail Mary play. If there are to be no miracles at least pray that what happened in New Orleans will make other archdioceses more responsible in dealing with similar problems.

...Remember the Epiphany. Incredibly, the Archdiocese's raid took place on the day of 12th Night, the Feast of the Epiphany. In New Orleans that day has been celebrated as the first day of the Carnival season, but now it can always have an extra meaning-the day of celebrating the passion of parishioners- true rocks of the church. The Feast of the Epiphany, which by tradition recognizes the arrival of the Magi, is supposed to represent insight and awareness. While the clerics who asked for the raid can hardly be confused for wise men those who witnessed the spectacle can be reminded that the church is ultimately about its people.

At the Archdiocese's office, the mantra, we suspect is "this too shall pass." But it won't. Not as long as the faithful remember 12th Night.

Plus, Big Red Cotton informs us of a Toiletry Drive for the 9th Ward Women's Shelter at the Kingpin on Lyons Street. More information can be found here.

And yes, we had Dubya trying to define his legacy in hysterically, sickly laughable terms today...but Scout's post rights his current wrong, for sure.

Righting the wrongs the feds inflicted on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of 8-29-05, however, is not something you have done much of, Mr Preznit. Say bye-bye to the American people, now, sir. We'll appreciate it if the door smacks you hard on the way out.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Today is the SilenceIsViolence Strike Against Crime, a day to wear red, a day to mark all the senseless deaths that occurred in the past few years here and are still occurring.

But more importantly, this is a day when we finally acknowledge that what is being done with regards to hopefully eliminating crime in this city is still woefully inadequate and our efforts thus far have been piddly in their effects.

Alli says it much better than I:

I agree that we need to march. But at the end of the march, everyone goes home and Riley goes to bed and gets up again the next day. What happens after the march? What happens when we numb ourselves with routine?

We need a coalition. Black, white, Vietnamese, Hispanic, female, gay, straight, male, Catholic, Baptist, atheist, uptown, downtown, lakeside, riverside, everyone. We need everyone to come together on this one thing. Yeah, call me naive. I know how fucking difficult that is. It's New Orleans.

We need a symbol. Obama's campaign turned him into a symbol, and the symbol was meaningful because millions of people were behind it. The real power was his coalition, but the symbol was the flashpoint. We come up with a symbol and get it all around town. Behind the symbol, we have a narrow and focused statement of purpose.

And we need constant, persistent, vocal, and peaceful visibility. It starts with the march. But we end the march by saying: do x, or expect y, z, and the whole damn alphabet. Then we follow through with nonviolent direct action. We can run shifts in City Hall. We can come up with a question sheet, we can display victim's pictures and stories, we can chalk out body outlines from every unsolved murder in front of City Hall. We get a PR firm as part of the coalition. We use social and traditional media to organize it. It just needs to get rolling. And it can't end until they're out of office.

I'm open to suggestions and critiques. I want to get serious about this. It's time to clean house or we won't have houses to clean.

What will it take to get everybody together beyond the marches, the naming of names, the funeral processions, the vigils?

THAT is the question that needs to be asked today.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Free at last, the OLGC vigilists are free at last:

Just came from court. All charges against us were dropped, which I suppose is good, but it would have been great to have this go to trial and get the archbishop up on the stand.

Stay tuned for the next installment...

Big Red Cotton has the latest on candlelight vigil and funeral information for Ja'Shawn Powell:

Friday Night Vigil for Ja'Shawn Powell

The Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force will hold a vigil for Ja'Shawn Powell. The public is invited to join SA&PC members in gathering at New Hope Baptist Church, 1807 La Salle Street, at 6pm for prayer; walk to the corner of Jackson Avenue and Danneel Street; candlelight vigil in Van McMurray Park.
Please wear RED

For more information about Friday's vigil for Ja'Shawn, contact Tamara
Jackson at 453-1155 or

Funeral Services For Ja'Shawn Powell

Services will be held Saturday at 11am at:
New Hope Baptist Church
1807 LaSalle Street
New Orleans LA 70113
The public is welcome to attend.

After church services, Ja'Shawn will be laid to rest at:
Providence Park Cemetery
8200 Airline Dr
Metairie, LA 70003

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"Nothing federal happened here. Nothing."
-Herbert Gettridge, on the rebuilding of his Lower Ninth Ward home

Watch The Old Man and the Storm. Right now.

Update, 11:55 PM: Poppy Z. Brite on her arrest at Our Lady of Good Counsel church today:

Parishioner Hunter Harris and I slipped into the pews and began to pray. They hauled us out, cuffed our hands behind our backs, and escorted us out to the police car. I walked because I didn't want them to hurt my back, but Hunter went limp and was dragged, losing his shoes. You can read the story and watch the news video, including us being led away in handcuffs, here and here (same news, different versions).

Other than the one guy, the police were obviously embarrassed and ashamed to be doing this, and they couldn't have been nicer to us. The young lady from the city attorney's office who led me out was almost crying, and I actually found myself comforting her: "We know it's not your fault." We were taken to Central Lockup, a cavernous but clean room with blaring TVs and various desks where you had to jump through the legal hoops. We were both charged with "criminal trespassing and resisting arrest." They never put us in a cell, just let us sit in the holding room until Judge Frank Marullo signed our release an hour or so later....

...Shortly after we were taken away, parishioner Harold Baquet was arrested too. As you can see in the news story, Harold is a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy. Apparently they weren't willing to look quite that evil, because they just gave him a citation and took him to his house nearby. By 2:00 or so we were all back outside the church giving interviews and planning our next steps.

We have to go to court tomorrow, where we'll be pleading not guilty. I'll keep you posted. Happy Epiphany -- at least we have Haydel's king cake!

Don't say them, please.

Try not to think them, if you can.

And DO NOT voice them to Daniella Powell, if you have any compassion at all.

Why not?

Because saying things so pithy and awful as "Society's to blame", or " You had to have known this was going to happen" to this grieving mother are cold comfort - downright icy.

Such statements only serve to bolster the horrifically cynical attitude that money is the perfect justification for a father to slit the throat of the future - of his future - and dump it in a field. "Whoever saves a human life saves the world entire" is a saying of the fathers in my religion. Danny Platt turned that completely on its head. Some father.

No, we cannot bring this child back from his unjustified death. But we can do our best to help with the healing of this mother who is left behind.

In her shock, she is still thinking her son needs new clothes. I am grateful for the presence of her extended family at this time, and I hope that more New Orleanians all over this city will reach out and show her that her feelings matter, that her son did not deserve this fate, and that she should not be thinking "What if..?" for the rest of her days.

As in, "What if I didn't let Ja'Shawn visit alone with his daddy?"

"What if I had gone with them?"

"What if I had taken the indifference of his daddy more seriously?"

Those sort of thoughts are slow killers that can consume the thinker. Hindsight is a 20/20 horror at times like these.

Bottom line: she was only doing what we have encouraged single parents of children time and again to do, and what we still encourage them to do: develop a relationship between the estranged parent and his/her child. How many times have you heard this? Whether it's coming from the mouths of those preaching "family values" in a fairly narrow context or simply from researchers saying that having both parents in the lives of a growing child is preferable, it is clear that raising a child alone is still not the way to go, if one can help it. Daniella Powell had little reason, in any case, to believe that her son wouldn't come back home.

I worry now about her capacity to trust others. She had entrusted the life of her young son to someone she thought would value that life enough to at least visit with the boy for a time, because he had visited with Ja'Shawn a few times before.

Danny Platt ended one life...and seriously injured another.

Contributing to the funeral fund for this child is the least we can all do.

Contributing to a society that values life above all else is the work that is never done...but it is absolutely necessary to help prevent things like this from happening again.

Update, 4:12 PM: Jarvis DeBerry weighs in:

I used to believe that I loved my father because he loved me. I used to think that I loved him not because he carried me around on his shoulders or let me sit on his lap to watch basketball games or showed me how to keep my center of gravity low to catch a hard-hit ground ball, but because he was there -- day in, day out, no matter the circumstances. But Ja'Shawn's gleeful reaction Friday night makes plain that a little boy will love a daddy who has done next to nothing for him.

Daniella Powell says Ja'Shawn said, "Oh, my daddy's here" and ran to the door saying, "Daddy, daddy, daddy."

"He was so happy," she said.

And then the father raised his hand against him.

More on these later. I can't get it off my mind, honestly.

Don't forget to contribute to the Ja'Shawn Powell Fund.

Monday, January 05, 2009

"A Midwestern Molotov cocktail of stress"

Yeah, right.

They want stress? We can do that.

Starting off this calendar year were three murders, which our pal Edie didn't hesitate to tell us about when we got into her car at the airport and asked her how things were. Throw in the death of a victim in an Algiers shooting in November and the senseless death of a two-year-old by his father's hand and we've already got one death a day.

The crime rate actually dropped last year? Not only can that be attributed to population growth, it can most likely be attributed to an evacuation for Hurricane Gustav. The police still get some shameful, downright awful marks on their conduct in (not) solving these crimes.:

Like many people in this town, I had to overcome real reluctance to report this crime and to try to assist in the investigation. My work in the criminal justice system has turned me into a conscientious objector to its workings -- its excessive sentences and wrongful convictions -- but I put those concerns aside because I believed that the greater injustice would be to do nothing and allow the violence that we escaped to fall on others.

Anyone who reads the news in this town has no doubt read comments from our police brass shirking responsibility and blaming us citizens when asked about the high levels of crime in our city or about unsolved crimes like the murder two years ago of my friend, Helen Hill.

The police say they cannot solve cases because we fail to cooperate and speak up. My experience gives me real reason to doubt that claim and suggests that any apathy in our communities about helping the police may be motivated more by the futility of the exercise than any lack of desire to see our streets made safer.

I know that is why I have stopped calling.

And yes, Helen Hill's murder is still unsolved. We know what happened in the Dinerral Shavers case, and how well justice was served by the intimidation of witnesses, the killing of a key witness, and the (non) willingness of the police in that case to protect those witnesses. And that is all too common a situation here.

That's pretty damn stressful.

We can demonstrate all we want on the 9th, and I encourage people to do so...but some major changes in our culture, and in the culture of the NOPD, are what is needed. Never forget that, and never let anybody else forget that.

This fear will tank this city much more than 8-29-05 ever did.

Update, 1:32 PM: This just in from Big Red Cotton, to help defray the funeral costs for two-year-old Ja'Shawn Powell:

The Ja'Shawn J. Powell Memorial Fund has been opened with Liberty Bank. People interested in making a donation to help defray the cost of his funeral can make a deposit in person (go to for listing of locations) or mail your donation to Liberty Bank P.O. Box 60131, New Orleans, La 70160.

Before you do anything against crime on January 9th, contribute to the fund. No mother should be burying her son, but if it does happen, no mother should have to shoulder this expense all alone.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Yes, I'm playing catch-up. It's what happens when one takes a week off from the interwebs.

I missed this event, which is a shame, since I have a good Montreal story:

It was the only time I ever heard the fateful words coming out of my husband's mouth on any of our numerous road trips: "What could have possessed me to take this trip???!!!???!!????" he exclaimed as we had to stop the car and scrape off all the ice that had accumulated on the windshield as we drove into a windy blizzard on December 26, 2005.

What, indeed?

It was our last driving trip in the northeast before we moved back south. It was Dan's once-a-month sanity trip, his opportunity to escape New York City, and he chose to head to Montreal on Canada's Boxing Day, with the help of a good hotel rate found on Priceline and a load of chutzpah, not to mention a willing wife. That willingness was being sorely tested in the face of this storm, however, the likes of which we'd rarely seen, even in Queens. Windshield washer was being used as though it was going out of style, and it still wasn't enough to thaw the ice on the glass, so we had to stop a couple more times before entering the greater Montreal area, where we were amazed to see folks driving on the superhighways like the weather wasn't there.

Doofuses that we were, we'd forgotten to pack our son's snowsuit, but that problem was easily solved, Dan thought...we'd head for the Carrefour shopping center just outside of the city and purchase a new one. He was operating under the assumption that this was a Carrefour store similar to ones we'd shopped at in Spain on our honeymoon - think upscale European Wal-Mart.
That assumption was so, so wrong.

The parking lot was jammed. The halls of the mall were almost unnavigable from all the hordes of people clogging them, but we managed to stuff ourselves through the doors of a Sears and got hold of an entire snowsuit, gloves, boots, and hat for $35 Canadian. Dan looked at a hockey table on sale for $50 and wondered if we ought to take it back for my cousin. Granted, the Boxing Day sales were incredible, but there was no way in hell we were going to schlep a tabletop hockey game back to New York.

We had a beautiful stay in Montreal after that harrowing travel day. We walked the underground malls. We took the Metro, saw squirrels frolicking in the snowdrifts around our hotel, and visited the site of the '76 Olympics, where there is now a Biodome with several wild animal habitats and some flightless waterfowl exhibits that keep the Arctic and Antarctic birds in lighting conditions similar to what they would be on that particular day at the poles. At that time of year, the Antarctic penguins were in 24-hour light conditions, and I noticed two penguins standing at the back of the exhibit and staring into the wall. Guess that's what happens when the light is boring into your eyeballs round-the-clock; I could imagine the poor things silently imploring the Biodomers to make it stoooop...

The tower above the Olympic site afforded an amazing view of a beautifully cold city, the sun shining above it all as we looked at where we'd been. We spent some time at Mont Royal Park as well, as my son bummed a few rides on someone's toboggan and slid through the snowdrifts there.

However, what would have been a most enduring souvenir of our trip was left beside the gas pumps at the Montreal filling station we pulled into for a rest and refueling on that first day of travel. We should have returned with a gallon each of this miracle chemical for all our friends and family, but it would have been too much to claim at customs. Here's to that blue elixir that keeps the Montrealers' windshields ice-free and enables them to zoom down icy freeways at 90 mph: