Friday, April 28, 2006
where else but an article about oprah's hopefully benevolent influence in the world could you find the unlikely pairing of "genocide" and "sex appeal" together in the same sentence. via jane wells in huffpo:
the cynic in me wants to shout out, while the undying optimistic liberal wants to commend this belated civic engagement, and urge her 10 million viewers to join with the hopefully couple hundred thousand folks rallying with me in dc this weekend, to urge something to be done. the specifics of the "something" though, remain an open question.
it's on the amazon wish list...the lyrics to Neil Young’s “Let’s Impeach the President”:
Let’s impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door
He’s the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war
Let’s impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones
What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government’s protection
Or was someone just not home that day?
Let’s impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected
Thank god he’s cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There’s lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
photos from new orleans
(since my disposable cameras didn't always work so well, i "borrowed" some photos from stacy's blog, with attributions and thanks).
i'll post some highlights on the blog itself soon.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
house gutting and life at camp algiers
when you're going to new orleans...
but apparently, when howard dean comes to new orleans... he's gotta go see the lower ninth ward. this story and picture, via the nytimes:
therefore, on friday morning, instead of working on gutting another house in gentilly or lakeview, neghborhoods that only had about 7 feet of moldy, smelly, bacteria-infested water, all of us acorn volunters instead went to the lower ninth ward. lakeview seems rebuildable, the lower ninth is something else. the two houses we worked on may have been the only two houses in that area still solidly on their foundations.
it was a little bit of a dog and pony show with the dems and the media, and way too much attention was focused on the democratic staffers pushing a wheelbarrow gussied up in their brand new tyvek suits and n100 masks (what n95 isn't good enough?), with not enough mention of acorn and the volunteers who have been coming down and doing this work for months.(abc news does a slightly better job in this regard). but in any case, the media on the event/action seems relatively positive, and the outcome will hopefully be helpful for the residents of new orleans.
and man, those houses in the lower ninth are nasty inside. trust me, you never want to smell a washing machine full of moldy katrina water.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
new orleans needs an extreme home makeover
yesterday, after our house gutting adventures, we drove through the lower ninth ward. it's a surreal post-apocalyptic landscape. houses on top of cars, houses on top of houses. who knows what the hell they're going to be able to do with this neighborhood.
with the mayoral elections on saturday (the day i leave), as i see the smiling happy faces on the ubiquitous billboards, i wonder what kind of difference any of them could make. working traffic lights would be great. how about picking up the enormous piles of trash and construction/deconstruction debris on every tree lawn? that would be a good start.
but there is a can-do optimistic spirit in the air. people want to rebuild, they have hope and courage in the face of all that they've endured. riding the bus and the streetcar to the french quarter yesterday, all of the random conversations that i overheard had something or other to do with katrina: commuting from houston, the sky-rocketing price of apartments in the west bank, rehabing mom's house in gentilly... i was instantly taken back to riding the subway in new york in the weeks after september 11th.
the french quarter was eerily quiet, yet open for business, like the deserted boardwalks of coney island on a cold february saturday. just waiting, in suspended animation, holding on, trying desperately to survive...
it felt really good, in a sad, depressing kind of way, to finding some poloroid photographs, and a michael jordan basketball card, as the only salvageable items in the home that we gutted today.
Monday, April 17, 2006
take that you evil moldy drywall !!
new orleans ... is it home?
that's how i feel about new orleans, nola to me. brooklyn was cute, philadelphia has a nice personality, and cleveland is the responsible choice for settling down and raising a family... but how i love my rendezvous with the big easy -
oh your succulent sweet beignets, sinful gumbo and jumping jazz. you've got just the right amount of spice to keep things interesting ... now i heard about all that happened with that katrina -- such an evil bitch - remember i told you she was trouble right from the start and that you needed to protect yourself better or things could ened up disasterously...
well that's all over now, just water over the bridge. come, let me help nurse you back to health so that we can both be whole once again.
Friday, April 14, 2006
right now on their site, there's email activism opportunities on:
- elections in new orleans
- curriculum for teachers
- honest contracting
- justice for new orleans residents who were/are imprisoned
Monday, April 10, 2006
passover and katrina
i want to focus on themes of freedom, and equating rebuilding new orleans to helping empower those who have been oppressed. obviously, new orleanians in general, and residents of certain predominately african-american neighborhoods in specific, recieved a major raw deal from all parties involved. i could definitely go in that direction and further, ala kanye west, with more anti-slavery metaphors.
instead though, this year i feel sorry for the egyptians....
they too, were given a major raw deal. just think of the poor, uneducated egyptian soldier, probably just 18 years old, who was drafted in the pharoah's mighty chariot corps. he didn't have a lot of opportunities growing up, and so with the generous egyptian g.i. bill, military service was a good option. he didn't know much about those strange israelites they were sent after, but being a patriotic egyptian, loyal to pharoah -- he was just doing his duty.
but then after the army traveled for a while on what seemed like dry, well-protected land, the levees broke, and water came at them from all sides. they never had a chance.
as we spill a drop of wine during our passover seders this week for each of the 10 plagues, may we continue to hope and work together for a time when our freedom doesn't come at the expense of the oppression of others.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Debris workers lodging extended;
FEMA to keep camps at least until June 1
Saturday, April 08, 2006
By Paul Purpura, West Bank bureau
Volunteers flocking to the New Orleans area to help clear storm debris and gut flooded houses will have free lodging at least through June 1, FEMA announced Friday, days before the agency had planned to close its four camps for relief workers.
The sites in Algiers, Chalmette, Port Sulphur and Cameron Parish had been slated to close next week, leaving volunteer organizations traveling to the region to help with post-Katrina recovery efforts scrambling for alternate sites. The four camps combined house about 1,500 people, but the number of beds has varied based on need, said Elizabeth Childs, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Under FEMA contracts, firms have operated the tent cities for months, initially to help emergency workers and National Guard troops in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As first responders and troops left, the lodging was opened to volunteers, from faith-based groups to college students on spring break. By one count, as many as 10,000 volunteers were in the area last month.
"Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition," Elenor Soltau, disaster relief coordinator for Canal Street Presbyterian Church, said Friday upon learning of the extension.
The Mid-City church, which has assisted with the influx of volunteers from across the nation, had three teams of 65 workers scheduled to stay in Camp Algiers at Behrman Park through May, and they already paid their return-trip airfare before learning the camp would close Monday, Soltau said. That left her seeking other lodging, she said.
"We're thrilled for the fact that at least it gives us two more months to house teams," Soltau said. "For now we can continue with plans for the teams that are coming in."
Hearing murmurs of the camps' closing in recent weeks, Habitat for Humanity and St. Bernard Parish officials began working on an alternate site for 800 workers in Arabi, as Camp Premier in Chalmette, which has housed 7,500 volunteers so far, was slated to close Wednesday, said Michael Hayes, who has recruited volunteers for the nonprofit group.
The group is still seeking a more permanent site, but the FEMA extension gives them some "breathing space," he said. "We're very thankful this is happening."
The camps include air conditioned tents with wooden floors that have cots, dining facilities serving three meals daily, washers and dryers, restrooms and showers.
FEMA pays about $100 daily per person to operate the camps, not including administrative costs such as salaries for FEMA employees involved with them, said Childs, the FEMA spokeswoman.
FEMA said the extension will help state and parish officials find "more comprehensive solutions" to help the volunteers involved with long term recovery. "Our base camp operations have been a vital support component for workers, many of them volunteers, that have come to help in the recovery," FEMA's deputy director for Gulf Coast operations Gil Jamieson said.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, opposed the camps' closure, saying in a March 29 letter to acting FEMA director David Paulison that more than 400 volunteer groups have helped in recovery efforts.
"It would be impossible to carry out the sheer volume of recovery needs without the assistance of volunteer organizations," he wrote.
Friday, April 07, 2006
FEMA extends contracts for 'tent cities'There's also an official press release up at FEMA's website.
03:53 PM CDT on Friday, April 7, 2006
FEMA announced Friday that it would extend the contracts for the ‘tent cities’ that have been housing hundreds of volunteers and emergency workers in the area providing hurricane relief.
The housing centers will remain open until June 1, the official start of hurricane season.
FEMA had been providing the camps and said the extension would provide extra time for officials to develop more comprehensive solutions for supporting volunteers involved in long term recovery.
Many volunteers had been living in the tent cities, two of which housed 1,200 volunteers at a time at a cost of about $100 a day per occupant. The camps provided shelter, hygiene facilities, laundry, food, and basic first aid.
FEMA had originally planned to close the camps on April 10 and 11.
1000th home gutted in St. Bernard Parishi wonder why, hmmm?
St. Bernard Parish officials gathered this afternoon at a home in Chalmette to mark the 1000th home gutted since Hurricane Katrina swamped the parish.
The 1 p.m. event was held at 2425 Judy Drive. Countless teams of volunteers have converged on the parish since the Aug. 29 storm, to gut houses and help residents get back on their feet.
But parish officials worry that with limited housing available to the volunteers the number of people willing to help with the work will dwindle.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Volunteers Make The Differencei couldn't have made this up any better if i had tried.
Release Date: October 20, 2003
Release Number: 1493-31
Washington, DC -- They are at every disaster, usually on the front line helping to meet the immediate and urgent needs of disaster victims. Some bring specialized skills and expertise; others offer an extra pair of hands or needed manpower. While their tasks may be different, they all share a desire to help and make a difference. They are volunteers.
More than 200 - both trained and spontaneous, unaffiliated - volunteers answered the call in the District of Columbia during Hurricane Isabel. The D.C. Commission on National and Community Service's D.C. Citizen Corps, and community partners, mobilized and assigned people to distribute 515 tons of dry and wet ice, 21,000 sandbags and assist in the feeding of more than 8,500 District residents.
"Government can't do it alone and our experience with Hurricane Isabel clearly showed that," said D.C. Emergency Management Agency director Peter La Porte. "Volunteers play a critical role in emergency response and were an invaluable resource during this disaster."
D.C. Citizen Corps, part of a national program administered by Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), started after September 11, 2001, to harness the power of individuals through education, training, and volunteer service, trains volunteers in crime prevention, emergency preparedness, mitigation, and response to all hazards- crime, terrorism, natural, technological and man-made disasters. The D.C. Citizen Corp's Community Response Team (CERT) program, trains people in basic disaster response skills and helps them take a more active role in emergency preparedness.
Greater D.C. Cares (GDCC), a Citizen Corps partner, managed and coordinated the people who responded to Mayor Williams' call for volunteers. Working from the city's Emergency Operations Center, GDCC assigned volunteers to the Food Bank, D.C. Central Kitchen and Washington Parks and People.
Voluntary agencies have a vital role in the Federal Response Plan that FEMA activates in disasters. The American Red Cross is the lead organization for administering response activities that meet the urgent needs of disaster victims on a mass care basis.
During Hurricane Isabel, a collaboration of the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Southern Baptists, D.C. employees, and other volunteers worked together to set up a mass-feeding program that provided more than 22,000 meals to District residents.
"You can't overstate the importance of volunteers," said Washington, D.C. federal coordinating officer Scott Wells. "Their giving personalities make them good team members that you can count on at a disaster. You don't always know who they are or where they come from, but you know they will always be there."
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
response from Rep. Jindal (LA-01)
from "Bendily, Erin" - Erin.Bendily@mail.house.gov
Thank you for your email to Congressman Jindal. FEMA has informed us that these tent camps will be closing. Congressman Jindal is aware of the impact that this will have on the many generous volunteers coming here to help with the rebuilding and recovery process. In addition to expressing his concerns to the local FEMA headquarters office in Baton Rouge, he has also written a letter to the FEMA Acting Director requesting that these camps remain open. We are hopeful that FEMA will re-consider, but unfortunately, they have not notified us of any change yet.
We appreciate your feedback on this and will continue to push this issue with FEMA.
Office of Congressman Bobby Jindal
a little about me
- the quick answer is that i went to college in new orleans, spent four years soaking up the culture of the crescent city, and want to give something back. while relying on volunteers instead of the the federal government to rebuild a city is less than ideal, given the current realities, volunteers gutting and rebuilding houses will hopefully help create facts on the ground that will ensure that these areas will be rebuilt and that people will be able to return home. and by volunteers seeing first-hand the situation in new orleans, they'll be willing to go home and advocate as so that new orleans won't be forgotten. See this recent story in the nation, which begins to show the potential power of local grassroots groups, supported by volunteers.
life is always an adventure...
the local FEMA liason in new orleans thinks that the closing of the base camps is a done deal, since she's been told not to take any more reservations from volunteer groups to stay there after April 10. she said volunteers and the groups "sponsoring" them are basically on their own. while there may have been some activity behind the scenes, since the decision to extend the camps would have to come from FEMA on high, the local groups should resign themselves and create contingency plans.
the people i reached in DC headquarters were clueless, and either claimed to know nothing of the situation, or told me to call other offices.
however, the guy i spoke to in the fema regional office (which covers lousisiana) knew exactly what i was talking about and seemed to say with a verbal equivelent of a "wink, wink" that "he was legally not allowed to talk about future contracts". hmm. maybe something is potentially happening behind the scenes after all. but who to pressure in FEMA to make it happen?
tomorrow i'm calling some senators... come join in the fun...
Senator Vitter (LA)
Phone: (202) 224-4623
Fax: (202) 228-5061
Senator Landreiu (LA)
and whoever represents you, wherever you live.
Monday, April 03, 2006
New Orleans Habitat for Humanity and FEMA
3/22/2006, "FEMA refuses to extend contract, despite original written confirmation"
Dear St. Bernard Volunteers:
I address you this afternoon with an extremely heavy situation. Despite FEMA’s approval for the expansion of the Volunteer Base Camps, Camp Premier in St. Bernard and Camp Algiers in New Orleans—an approval which dates back to January—they have reneged two times already and are crippling a necessary vein of support. The physical space and the materials are all accessible to the vendor of Camp Premier—all he needs is a signature of approval to extend the camp past the original termination date of April 11th. Due to the Stafford Act, the contract for expansion cannot be authorized by anyone but the two men at the very top of the ladder, Michael Jackson with the Dept. of Homeland Security and David Paulison, Acting Director of FEMA. FEMA has yet to sign their approval.
They have already announced that they are canceling the transportation for the St. Bernard Project starting this Sunday, March 26. They have not approved an extension of the contract, so we must all try and be self-sustaining as far as that is concerned. Therefore, I ask all of you to try and secure buses for the entire week—should you have already contracted them—to help shuttle your team from the Base Camp to the worksites. I ask that those individuals who are flying in to rent a car, for which there will be secure parking, for this same purpose. This is one more example of FEMA withdrawing critical support from where it is needed most, and it foreshadows a failure on their part to extend the contracts for the Tent Cities.
From the start, our role in St. Bernard’s much-needed recovery has been recruiting volunteers, while St. Bernard’s Department of Recovery coordinated the volunteer teams and FEMA provided food and lodging. As of January 12, FEMA had given us a written commitment to accomodate 2000 volunteers in Camp Premier until June 30th. Both New Orleans Habitat for Humanity and the St. Bernard Parish Government have been engaging generous and willing volunteers ever since. All of you have risen to the occasion, spending large amounts of money on transportation and equipment and making personal and work-related sacrifices.
I am well aware that many of you have been planning for some time. We cannot allow this to happen.
While the St. Bernard Parish Department of Recovery is making arrangements for secondary accommodations, this negligence on the part of FEMA is abhorrent and unacceptable. The region will not recover without the support of thousands of volunteers, all of whom need lodging that was promised by FEMA. The tremendous number of volunteer man-hours provided by the presence of these base camps saves the federal government an incalculable expense. We must compel FEMA to follow through on their commitment.
I urge you to contact your representatives in the House, Congress and the Senate and advise them of the dire situation: FEMA is blocking the road to recovery in St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes! I also invite you to join us in blitzing FEMA with emails and phone calls:
FEMA’s general operator: (202) 566-1600
I thank you for support in this and all matters. Please do not respond to my email account, as I have no capability of addressing all of your concerns on this issue, nor the power to change this decision alone. We must work together!
Special Projects Coordinator
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Action Report: FEMA plans to shut down 'tent cities,'
volunteers scramble to find alternative housing
10:09 AM CST on Friday,March 31, 2006
Bill Capo / WWL-TV Action Reporter
Thousands of volunteers from around the city have been playing crucial roles in the re-building of New Orleans, but the non-profit and religious groups that sponsor them are worried because FEMA plans to close the tent cities that have housed many of the volunteers.
“It’s been astounding, we’ve been able to enlist the support of over, almost 3000 volunteers, if not more than that,” said Mike Hayes with Habitat for Humanity.
Many of the volunteers have been living in “tent cities” set up by FEMA. Two of them housed 1,200 volunteers at a time at a cost of about $100 per person per day. The tent cities had places to sleep, a shower, and a cafeteria.
“We’ve been staying in the FEMA tents, and they have fed us, it’s awesome food, I mean it’s awesome housing, they got hot showers every night for us, so it’s been a great experience so far,” said Auburn University volunteer Lindsey Harder.
FEMA said it has scheduled to close the camps on April 10 and 11.
“Why is this facility being closed down? Well FEMA originally had contracts for about the last six months to operate three camps in the New Orleans areas, and the contracts run out mid-April,” said FEMA representative Leo Skinner.
Non-profit and religious agencies that have sponsored the volunteers said losing the free housing could hurt their efforts to help New Orleans recover.
“The tent cities are critical in maintaining that level of volunteerism. If they are shut down or they go away, we’re going to have two alternatives. We’re either going to lose hundreds of hard working, willing volunteers, or we’re going to have to scramble to find other housing for them,” said Jim Pate with Habitat for Humanity.
Leaders of non-profit and church groups have been scrambling to find new housing for the volunteers who want to come down and help rebuild New Orleans, while at the same time hoping that FEMA will find some way to keep the camps open.
“Right now the biggest issue for us, especially coming up this summer when every youth group in the country wants to come down here, is where are we going to house them, where are we going to put them, where are we going to feed them?” questioned Aaron Arledge with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“We’re looking at the possibility of maybe some of the schools that maybe we can swap out gutting and clean up in exchange for housing volunteers,” said Pate.
Habitat for Humanity said they are hoping to get help from Louisiana’s congressional delegation, but are still preparing their own tents to house volunteers.
“Is there any chance that something could be done to keep these camps open? I’m not going to say yes or no, but I can tell you that the extension of the camps is being reviewed by headquarters, FEMA headquarters,” said Skinner.
FEMA kicking out volunteers from New Orleans on April 10
Christian Broadcasting Network
Talking Points Memo Cafe
This is ridiculous -- the very least that the federal government should do is house and feed volunteers coming to help.