Tuesday, August 29, 2006



Monday, August 28, 2006

Katrina +1 - WE ARE NOT OK

This past year has been the most difficult and unbelievably life changing times that will hopefully ever happen again to me and the hundreds of thousands of other residents of New Orleans. This city that I love - that is my true love - foundered and nearly died. An American city was almost entirely destroyed.

While we have fought to resurrect this most unique place in the world, we've had to endure an almost constant barrage of criticism from the federal government and fringe lunatics, while trying to get the rest of the country to understand we are now forced to rebuild a city from the ground up - schools, electrical networks, gas lines, streets, water, sewage, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, dry cleaners, businesses, individual's homes - everything. As I've said many times now, the storm was nothing. The aftermath was everything…

It is widely misunderstood and thought that New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, those terrible images of New Orleans flooding and the human suffering that occurred almost a year ago were in reality caused by human error. Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast while New Orleans was only brushed by the storm. It is quite obvious as to where the storm hit - virtually every structure along the Mississippi Gulf Coast no longer exists, whereas New Orleans' housing still stands, albeit in a ruinous state.

The flooding of this great city occurred because of years of neglect, wetlands loss and faulty levee construction done by the United States Federal Government.

Today, one year later, one must still drive through miles after miles of devastated neighborhoods to get anywhere and I have to only step outside of my FEMA trailer and look a few doors down to see a home where two of my neighbors and their dogs drowned.

I paddled right past that home a little less than a year ago wondering then how many people were trapped in those attics or floating in their bedrooms like the two floating and bloated golden retrievers that I saw that day. It isn't hard for the littlest thing to suddenly spark memories of that time, and I am glad we are able to finally move past this first anniversary.

This has oddly been the best and worst year of my life. It has also been the greatest adventure of my life… even with all the pain, heartbreak and anger. I've learned a heck of a lot over the course of this last year, but I think the most startling revelations for me are how common heroism and the generosity of strangers can be.

The nights are still hard, but in the daylight, there is a spirit here amongst the people of this city, a will and a demand to survive this. We could all be morons for thinking that this city can be saved - but damn if we're not going to attempt it. If we do succeed though, we as a people will probably father an odd strain of human who will re-populate this city far into the future - heroic and able to withstand anything.

We created Jazz here once… who knows what music we'll invent after this.

* Update: I woke this morning with an ironic smile wondering why the big days in New Orleans are always on Tuesdays... Yesterday felt like some kind of dark Lundi Gras... and I laughed at how on Ash Wednesdays I tend to say Mardi Gras should not happen every year. Maybe once every four years... I never get my wish.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rising Tide/NPR

One of the best takeaways I have from the Rising Tide Conference comes from listening to Shane Landry poingantly express his thoughts on Louisiana seceeding from the Union. Describing in no uncertain terms how the U.S. governemnt broke a trust with the people of this state and in his most powerful point, how no other place in America throughout our history has ever had to justify their existence to the rest of the nation, clearly reminds me of those early days post K where I was typing the same...

Maitri has the detailed breakdown on the whole conference.

Tomorrow I'm going to be interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR) from my trailer in Lakeview and will have a clear link to it here - but for now this is where I think it will reside.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Are We a Nation of Bureaucrats?

By now everyone has heard about Mayor Nagin's comments about the lack of progress in rebuilding at the World Trade Center site when pressed by a 60 Minutes reporter on the slow pace of recovery in New Orleans.
During the “60 minutes” interview, a correspondent pointed out flood-damaged cars still on the streets of New Orleans’ devastated Ninth Ward. Nagin replied, “You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed, and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair,” according to CBS.
Let's be fair and honest here... To compare the excruitiating and horrible attacks on this country on 9/11 to the massive destruction that Hurricane Katrina poured onto the Gulf Coast and then onto New Orleans through this country's biggest engineering failure is completely misguided.

But with the amount of scrutiny and venom directed towards this city, our government and our people it is fair of Nagin to point this out. Why has nothing really been done to build anything on that national site almost five years later?

Where is the gumption and can-do spirit that built and made this nation great?

I see it every day on the streets of New Orleans in the eyes of her people who are down here rebuilding and trying to salvage and ressurect their city one house at a time. I see it in the flourishing grass roots neighborhood associations which have quite literally become the only functioning government on all levels. I see it in the thousands of volunteers from around the country who are still down here a year later gutting the homes of strangers.

Where did this disconnect that our government has from the needs of her people come from. Does this government of ours not understand that we are Americans battling for our homes and lives?

If not, governement at all levels had better get out of the way, because we New Orleanians are just doing it... with or without the bureaucrats.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Liquor Relief for NOLA?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Eat Out - Help Save New Orleans & the Gulf Coast

Through my work interviewing the top 30 New Orleans' Chefs for my upcoming book, Chefs in Exile, I have seen first hand the good that the organization Share Our Strength has been doing with feet on the ground operating soup kitchens, organizing school cafeterias and providing support for incredibly strained restaurant workers.

Help this organization to continue helping some of OUR first relief workers, our restauranteurs and Chefs, by dining out in many of your favorite restaurants across the country on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall.

Only in New Orleans could Chefs be held up as heroes next to the police, firemen, 82nd Airborne, National Guard, Coast Guard, nurses & doctors. Their continuing struggle to operate under extreme hardships deserves everyone's support and thanks.

Click HERE for participating restaurants in your neck of the woods.



Monday, August 21, 2006

Carefull not to Step in It

Well K+1 is rapidly approaching and everyone from CNN to Discovery to your mominem will be airing some sort of Katrina anniversary documentary. The images and failures will again be plastered onto the back of America's eyes.

I only ask that everyone be carefull about what they wade through during this time... remember that most have an angle or a political bent and are using the Katrina lens to further something other than the real cause.

Spike Lee's documentary is apparantly pretty vivid, moving and definately a worthwhile watch, yet it completely glosses over the fact that Katrina spared no ethinicity or class. To hear it from Spike, Katrina walloped only poor black people while all the whites sat on their porches playing cribbage.

Then you've got the insane people like Charles Payne, a talking head for Fox who detailed how New Orleans is now a hotbed of dissatisfaction and anger at the Federal Government and as such is now a fertile recruiting ground for al Qaeda... yeah, he really said that.

So keep an eye out for the B.S., try and keep us in your thoughts and come on down and visit. New Orleans needs your tourist dollars more than ever.

Tags: ,,,,,,,,,,,

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Carpet Bloggers/Disaster Sycophants

Open Letter to Know More Media & Chartreuse

Through emails and blog comments, Chartreuse and representatives of Know More Media have purported to have nothing but the best intentions on documenting the exploits of “Team New Orleans” as they visit south Louisiana to discover the “Truth” about these so called FEMA concentration camps.

Having received copies of similar emails over the course of this past year, including other even more horrendous and outrageous emails, many of us in the New Orleans blogging community as well as the Mainstream Media of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have investigated these ‘stories’ and discovered that most were without merit. Many were in fact, and not surprisingly, complete fabrications written only to garner publicity for their authors.

For KMM and Chartreuse to think that it is possible to whisk down here and suddenly discover the “Truth” about these odious stories is almost comical. In fact, it is actually egomaniacal to think that “Team New Orleans” will discover in four or five days what every major media organization in the world could not, what the local Pulitzer and Peabody winning media could not, as well as the very active local blogging community.

Couple with this the fact that KMM's paid “citizen journalist”, Chartreuse, generally blogs about Angelina Jolie and other such nonsense and his New Orleans blog is simply a re-publisher of AP stories which are surrounded by personal money making links only adds to the general unease that is felt about this mission to discover the “Truth”.

Furthermore, KMM’s website, which they are trying to set up as a locus for “Truth’s about New Orleans” is also a commercial site. It is filled with nothing but links to KMM's other money making websites. This only furthers our fears that KMM and Chartreuse are going to profit by piggy backing off of these sensationalized myths.

NOWHERE is there any effort to guide KMM's audience, who could possibly be moved to action after reading these shocking “Truths” that Chartreuse plans to uncover, into the right directions to help the people of this region.

Those of us who live in the Gulf South, from Lake Charles to nearly Mobile, have been touched and can still easily be brought to tears by the incredible generosity of the American people, which we feel down to our souls. However, in this exposed and mentally traumatized state, we feel equally pain and anger as we’ve been forced to endure the incredible misportrayals, derision, and venom which has been directed towards us, our character and our community.

Trust me on this, we are in no state of mind to put up with even the appearance of war profiteering or some no one who suddenly declares that they will be our savior in under a week. Especially when a little investigative journalism, which would probably only take sending out a couple of emails to a few local bloggers and inquiring as to what they thought or knew about these outlandish charges, could have easily dispelled KMM's and Chartreuse's alarm regarding these myths.

If KMM seeks to be an outlet for a group who apparently desires to become the disaster sycophants of the blogging world – then more power to them – but DO NOT expect the New Orleans blogging community's blessing.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Invasion of the "Carpet Bloggers" Part Chartreuse

I'm generally not late to a party, but let me see if I can re-cap and put in my own two cents on this dust-up.

As I previously posted, there is a group of bloggers from California and Tampa who are calling themselves "Team New Orleans", and who are venturing down to our tattered city to "discover the truth" about what's going on down here.

The "Team" leader is someone who calls himself Chartreuse. Apparantly one day his wife received an email from someone over at the ACLU detailing how life in a FEMA trailer camp was and I quote here:
Out of control... the complaints for racial profiling and police harrassment…are starting to take a more military influenced direction….the torture techniques made public with Abu Gharib and Guantanamo …are now becoming routine down here.
...they shut down public religious services and have to sneak in ministers and religious service providers to do private ceremonies in people’s trailers in what residents call the “concentration camps”, you have to show an ID to enter, armed (with machine guns) national guard walking around everywhere like it is a prison, many complain of having to pay the FEMA people for gas and water and other stuff they aren’t supposed to have to pay.
Sounds pretty terrible right.

Well the problems with this email are several. While claiming to be a "Citizen Journalist", Chartreuse will not provide any sourcing on, well, anything.

Secondly, that email goes into the bin along with all of the other myths that have propogated out of New Orleans over the last year. They're all bullshit. Or it's only an event which has been completely blown out of proportion ala "They blew up the levees."

Most of these myths have been properly investigated and finally put to rest.

Enter Chartreuse and his merry band of forthright citizens who all just so happen to have headshots and some of which are armed with highly dubious claims to New Orleans.

Outraged by this email, these posing 'rockstars' mercilessly tried to drum up funding for an excursion to New Orleans to uncover the "TRUTH" and received it from a business blogging company named Know More Media.

No big deal right. Just another media group coming down to feed on our decaying carcass.

Well here's the issues.
  • This "Team New Orleans" is re-sensationalizing old myths about New Orleans in the aftermath, which only deflects focus off of our real problems.
  • They've already generated some great publicity for themselves, something which they deny they are interested in, yet have zero links on their website for their audience to donate time, money or something as simple as writing their congressmen regarding the true major issues we have here in New Orleans.
  • They then pissed off the local blogging community who have been tirelessly working their collective asses off trying to spread the word about the predicament this region is in by blowing off our invitations to the Rising Tide Conference and then declaring that they are, in effect, bringing this new fangled internet world of blogging down to us backwards Southerners and will now discover the "TRUTH".
There are also a few more concerns that I have on the whole "altruistic" and "citizen journalist" aspects of their story.

For one, do a search for Chartreuse on Technorati and the things (tags) that he normally blogs about are as follows: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, hype, money, music videos, pregnancy, sex, sexy, white girls and YouTube.

Not one mention of New Orleans or Katrina.

Next, do a search on Know More Media and like I said earlier, they are a business that runs blogs about businesses. In fact, they pay their bloggers, and as quoted from their website:
When we at Know More Media learned about Chartreuse’s commitment to send citizen journalists to New Orleans, we immediately knew that we wanted to participate and support this cause. So we committed the following... Paying the video crew to write daily posts about their trip, their interviews, their pictures, their observations, and publishing it on this blog.
And then finally an admission from Easton Ellsworth himself, of Know More Media:
We are a publishing business, and I think most people would agree that as long as our content is original and useful, it's okay to try make a few bucks with it.
At our expense Easton?

Did you try and make a few bucks off of 9/11 too?

You're sounding less and less like "citizen journalists" and more and more like Main Stream Media wannabes.

And to you Chartreuse... are you really doing this to discover the truth... or are you just getting your idiot name out there and getting paid while nibbling at our wounds.

Moreover, Chartreuse, do you and your "Team New Orleans" plan on gutting any houses while you're down here? Y'all working in any soup lines down in St. Bernard?

Wanna know more about NOLA blogger's reactions to this along with a few replies from Chartreuse himself... click here, here, here and here.


Invasion of the "Carpet Bloggers"

Yesterday I became aware of a group out of Orange County, California that has decided that they will become the true "citizen journalists" (read bloggers) for New Orleans - not in her recovery - but in investigating the "truth" behind the wild allegations and myths that have surrounded this city since the storm.

They have stated that they will bring to light the horrible truth behind the FEMA concentration camps that are running throughout this state. Evil places where church services must be held in secret inside FEMA trailers and where these displaced New Orleanians have been forced to create an underground railroad for gasoline and baby formula.

I'm sorry, but these people want to make me puke and as such, I won't even give out their link.

What's even more outrageous is that this is what their own website states:
While we are seeking to find truth about what happened and what is happening in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, we realize that we are not on the ground living it. To find the true story about what is happening, we suggest you read some of the local New Orleans blogs and podcasts.
No kidding. Who would know better... people who's feet have been on the ground since before the storm? People who are native New Orleanians? Or some business blog company who primarily pays people to blog about accounting, industry verticals and business travel?

The first thing I did after hearing about these twats was to contact Maitri over at VatulBlog and ask her what her thoughts were on this and she provided me with some background on several highly respected NOLA blogger's communications with these people - basically they refused to respond to even the most basic and friendly of emails. They even declined to join this community in participating in the "Rising Tide Conference".

Anyway, Maitri put it best by calling these people "Carpet Bloggers" and it makes me sick that they are being paid to come down here and conduct so called "citizen journalism" while in reality, all they are trying to do is make money by further sensationalizing New Orleans post-K myths.

Unless, of course, they finally figure out who blew up the levees...


Monday, August 14, 2006

As Valuable as Cattle?

Charles C. Mann has penned for Forbes one of the most incisive and illuminating articles regarding the current status of the "rebuilding" of New Orleans and the levees.

It holds zero punches and is an absolute must read.

The Long, Strange Resurrection of New Orleans


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blogging at the Breach

or one of them at least...

The weekend before the anniversary of New Orleans' levee breaches, there will be a conference put together by several top notch NOLA bloggers. The plan is "to dispel myths, promote facts, share personal testimonies, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a 'real life' demonstration of internet activism as the nation prepares to mark the one year anniversary of a massive natural disaster followed by governmental failures on a similar scale." MORE INFO ON RISING TIDE.

Really I think it's only a reason for all of us to get together and booze.

Actually, I think that's all this entire city is going to be doing. We're apparantly all going insane down here.

Even a Times-Picayune photographer tried to committ suicide by cop the other day.

Don't believe me... read on.

From the Times-Pic:
Stress is keeping law enforcement officers in New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish busy these days, as they answer many more calls than before the storm for domestic abuse, drunkenness and fights. Involuntary commitments to mental hospitals are up from last year, and suicides in Orleans Parish have tripled since Katrina.

And from James Gill:

Those citizens who did return are disproportionately bananas, but they don't even know it. The journal article quotes a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that revealed 26 percent of returning evacuees thought at least one of their family members needed "mental health counseling."

Analysts concluded that half the respondents themselves had "a possible need for mental health assistance," and 33 percent a 'probable need.'
And here's the link for the American Medical Associations article on how we're all going crazy...

or you can just go back through my archives and read everything I've written since the storm made landfall and see for yourself how I for one definately need some counseling.



Tuesday, August 08, 2006

National Katrina Poll

The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a national poll that was released today on the nation's attitudes towards Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath and the status of New Orleans in general.

The full PDF can be viewed by following this link, otherwise here are some of the results:

• How often do you think about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath?
  • Very often: 20%
  • Somewhat Often: 40%
  • Not Too Often: 29%
  • Not At All: 11%
  • Don't Know: 1%
• Do you think that by now, most people affected by Hurricane Katrina have gotten the help they need with housing, health care, and restoring their lives, or do you think that most people affected by the hurricane have NOT gotten the help they need?
  • Most have NOT gotten the help that they need: 70%
  • Most have gotten the help that they need: 23%
  • Don't know: 7%
• Do you think that the state and local governments in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina have gotten the help they need from the federal government to restore services and infrastructure, or do you think the federal government has NOT done enough to help state and local governments in the affected areas?
  • The Federal Government has NOT done enough to help: 56%
  • State & Local Governments have gotten the help they need: 30%
  • Don't know: 15%
• Now thinking specifically about New Orleans, which of the following do you think best describes the situation in New Orleans today?
  • The city is still in crisis and not functioning well: 30%
  • There is still major work to be done to get the city up and running: 52%
  • There is some work to be done, but most people are back to their normal lives: 11%
  • Things are back to normal: 2%
  • Don't know: 5%
Maybe the only people with Katrina fatigue are the national media, the Federal Government and, of course, all of us down here in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.


Main Stream Media Shelacking

A native New Orleanian at the University of Tennessee is researching the impact, sourcing and availability (or lack thereof) of information before, during and after the storm on Hurricane Katrina survivors.

This short survey is completely anonymous and will help further our understanding of how the Main Stream Media are a bunch of goofballs. I mean if they can't even tell us correctly about which neighborhood they are in in New Orleans, how can they possibly properly convey the news from warzones or foreign governments?

If you want to take a moment to fill this out, follow this link.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Yesterday in my humble duties as the block Captain for the two block area of my Lakeview neighborhood, I went house to house conducting a superficial property survey. Here are a few of the basic results for the two block area that I surveyed:

• Total Homes: 22
• Number which flooded: 22 - (100%)
• Houses gutted: 15 - (68%)
• Houses not gutted: 7 - (31%)
• Houses under repair: 4 - (18%)
• Houses for sale: 8 - (36%)
• Residents Occupying: 3 - (13%)

Pretty depressing numbers, but as I've stated all along - Lakeview will come back - not only because of the strong ties we have to that neighborhood, but also because of the ease of which one can make groceries and buy gas and such in neighboring Jefferson Parish.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How to Commemorate Katrina

There's been a lot of bad ideas thrown out there so far on how to mark this upcoming one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast - the worst of which so far is fireworks - that I feel obliged to add my two or three cents to this debate.

I woke this morning thinking that New Orleans shouldn't mark the anniversary of Katrina's landfall at all, that that should be left to places like the Mississippi Gulf Coast and St. Bernard Parish... New Orleans should mark the moments that the levees failed.

I then came to the conclusion that this idea was probably a non-starter considering all of the national and international media will probably be gone the next day anyway.

So based on that, I guess we have to join in on that date.

Because these markings of historic times are by definition symbolic, how better than to use the biggest symbol of the suffering caused by the levee breaches - New Orleanians.

I say New Orleanians of all stripes should on that day walk to your nearest levee and stand hand in hand til we encircle the city. Those areas that were breached will suddenly be highlighted by the breaks in the human link where those levees busted on that day and are now supposedly being repaired.


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