Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I'm Sick - and Tired of It

Seriously. Since February 1st, I have been battling a cold I cannot shake. It hit me heavily at first and gradually faded until the weekend after Mardi Gras when it returned with renewed life to knock me flat. My Regional Manager actually sent me home from work the following Monday, and I stayed home for two more days.

Others have it, too, and we're all having a hard time shaking it off. First, the Katrina Cough, now the Katrina Cold. The Katrina Pneumonia or the Katrina Pleurisy can't be far off.

But then, everything around us has changed in ways we never expected. Depression affects us all to one degree or another. Some others are being pulled down by despair. I'm losing patience and wounding friends.

But it's become too difficult to dismiss stupidity and density and just move on. And the stupidity and density are not to be believed.

One example. I have yet to receive my W-2 Form. I've contacted my HR Department the way our Director instructed us to do (only after February 6th, since we probably got it, but lost it, and they're all too busy to be babying us workers, anyway). My HR contact kindly explained she would call the Universal Payroll Unit and have them mail me a new one. I explained that might not work since we are still not receiving mail on a regular basis. I asked if they could fax it to me. She said no. So I asked if they could mail it to the office where I am presently assigned. She said they could but she would have to change my address in the system. I said okay.

Weeks passed and I did not receive my W-2. I called her back to let her know. I asked if there were some other way to get the form. She said no. I said that since we do not receive pay stubs but can go to an Internet site to view a PDF version of them, why is the W-2 so different? She said she had no control over the Universal Payroll Unit. But she would have them mail me another copy.

I am talking to brick walls every day.

People, to my knowledge, there are two supermarkets open in the city of New Orleans. When buildings catch fire, helicopters dip water from the Mississippi River to pour over them to try to douse them. And the mail is not getting to all of us on a regular basis.

I figure by November, I should discover five W-2's in my mailbox.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Not a Day Goes By

I'm home from another impossible post-Katrina workday, I'm listening to Willie Nelson on iTunes, and I'm thinking about my dad.

Daddy was born in the early teens of the 20th Century. His mother was Eva Mouton. She can be found in archives listing the descendants of Nova Scotia's Acadians, what we call the Cajuns. Daddy's father was not a Cajun. His people were from the Alsace-Lorraine Region of France or Germany or both. But daddy didn't know that. He always believed his father was a Cajun as well as his mom. His father also always told him he was not related to the other people in the region who bore the same family name.

He believed that until the day he died. We, his three sons, only learned two years after his death that this was not true. We had been related to the other people of the same name. Daddy's father had cherished some obscure family feud. Perhaps in deference to my dad's innate dignity, none of the others ever contradicted his belief in what his father had told him.

His name was Joe, after his father. He had a younger brother who was also named Joe. By the time daddy was eight he was smoking Picayune cigarettes and boxing his younger brother in a makeshift boxing ring their father had built in their back yard. Whichever brother lost a bout was boxed in turn by Joseph Emile, Senior.

By the time daddy was eleven, the monumental Eva Mouton had passed away following a gruesome bout of cancer, and all that was left were the two Joes and their two sisters, Cat and Loule, all tied together by their collective wounds and anchored to their father whom they loved.

Daddy grew, left school to go to work, had girlfriends, then women, married and had a son who died in infancy, divorced, and had more women. One day on 6th Street, he saw a dark-eyed girl he thought he might fancy.

Her name was Maria or Mary. She was first-generation American, Sicilian, being raised by her grandmother and her grandmother's patron. Mary's people forbade her to have anything to do with this trash who wanted to defile her.

Daddy courted her in secret. He serenaded her with the song "Springtime in the Rockies." He won the class struggle and her hand after taking the step of approaching the padrone to ask for her hand in marriage. The old people were dumbfounded by his courage or gall and gave Maria or Mary to him.

After a few years they began a family. Jimmy was first, then Russell, then daddy went to war. When that was done, he came back home and worked as a truck driver hauling grain. Later he became a policeman in the small city where they lived.

Daddy was not a young man when I was born, eleven years after Russell. He was more like a grandfather to me. Certainly, I got away with more than any normal son would ever get away with.

I became spoiled and haughty. Daddy used to say I had a cold, cold heart. He used to say the day would come when I would eat shit and be thankful for that. He turned out to be right.

But there was never a day when he did not follow all my actions with his focused eyes. There was never a day when I was apart from him. There was never a day when he did not ravish me with his love.

Nowadays, not a day goes by that I do not remember in ever pulse of my blood that I was loved beyond any merit or cause by someone who was, beyond that God-given swaddling love, only a plain, simple, broken-hearted man.

Daddy died when I was just beginning to learn how to love him back. At his funeral, the brothers had ordered a wreath of roses. Just before the funeral director was to close the casket, I broke off a rose and placed it on my daddy's chest. My brothers instinctively did the same thing.

I have never been loved so much by any other person in my long life, and my heart has never been whole since then.

Monday, March 13, 2006

We Can Do Anything We Please

I'm pressed for time, but you have to read this.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Memaw Gets Hustled

Pity the poor governor. She believed the huckster president's promise that the Federal Government would be giving Louisiana $4.2 billion for housing recovery.
Leaders of the House Appropriations Committee have stripped President Bush’s request to earmark $4.2 billion for housing recovery in Louisiana, throwing the state’s rebuilding plan into question and unleashing a scramble among hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast states for a cut of the money.
I'm sure those leaders were acting independently of the White House. We all know that now that the president is down in the polls, his formerly submissive Republican cohorts are assuming greater power and control, even as they pooh-pooh the likes of Cheney and Rove.
The move coincides with a stepped-up campaign by the state of Texas to get a larger share of hurricane financing than it has received in the past. With five members of the House committee from Texas, the state has far more clout than Louisiana, which is represented on the panel only by Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman....

At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an impassioned plea for a larger share of federal hurricane recovery spending than the state has so far received. Of $11.5 billion in federal grants allocated in December, Texas got $72 million....

“Mother Nature treated people on both sides of the border with equal wrath,” Perry said. “Congress should give them equal financial assistance.”
Only Texas should be given a proportionately larger equal share. With all due respect, Governor, drive east until you reach Alabama and keep your eyes open.
In her pitch for a share of the federal disaster money, Blanco once again told senators that the damage in her state is a federal responsibility because breaches in the levees — which were federally designed and built — led to much of the flood devastation during Katrina. She also said that at a time when Congress is considering $72 billion for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, “surely we can spend $1.5 billion to strengthen the levees (in southeastern Louisiana), $4.2 billion to allow people to come home.”
Hasn't she learned yet that this argument doesn't hold water (pardon the pun) with those special men in DC?

From what I've read here, I'm most impressed with Bob Riley of Alabama. He seems to have surveyed the situation with a clear and steely eye and, as a result, has a sense of what he can reasonably accomplish.
As the governors from Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi politely positioned themselves for a share of Bush’s fourth supplemental spending package, it was Alabama Gov. Bob Riley who was notable for declining to put his hand out. Riley said states should have more flexibility in how they spend federal resources. But when asked by Landrieu if the $72 million in housing financing Alabama got in the last disaster spending bill was enough, he said it was.
Get what you can from these conmen, put it in your pockets, then get the hell out of town and back home.

Pity po' Memaw. She still trustin' dat bank. We gon' lose dis farm fo' sure, cher.

And New Orleans lies a-mould'rin'.

Friday, March 3, 2006

They're Back

Crawling out of the apartment this morning to go to work, I discovered something strange on my windshield, a parking ticket. I owe the City of New Orleans $20.00 for parking between the hours of 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM on a weekday in front of my home on Decatur Street.

I felt a small flush of pleasure. I felt a tiny

I made a dash up and down the street and saw that every vehicle parked like mine sported a bright orange rectangle, like a Puritan scarlet "A": the Chevy from Missouri, the pickup from Texas, the Volvo from Georgia.

For the first time since August 29th, an anonymous little woman had returned to her roots and was taking back her streets. For all these months, they had parked anywhere they chose, on corners, in driveways, on sidewalks.

But Rita's back, and she's got her groove.

Darlin', you know the time is gonna come when I'm gonna hate you like I did before the storm. But right now I could kiss all your cheeks.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Secluded, Comfortable, and Oblivious

Unaware as Levees Fell, Officials Expressed Relief - New York Times
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."
Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

He Knew What to Expect

So now we have visual proof that he was informed of the potential danger of Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, even though he said a few days (and weeks and months) later that no one had any way of knowing the degree of devastation that could happen.
A newly leaked video recording of high-level government deliberations the day before Hurricane Katrina hit shows disaster officials emphatically warning President Bush that the storm posed a catastrophic threat to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and a grim-faced Bush personally assuring state leaders that his administration was "fully prepared" to help....

"I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm," Bush said, gesturing with both hands for emphasis on the digital recording. Neither Bush nor Hagin asked questions, however....

"This is, to put it mildly, the big one," Brown said. "Everyone within FEMA is now virtually on call."

Brown warned that thousands of New Orleans residents were gathering in a shelter of last resort at the Louisiana Superdome, which he said was about 12 feet below sea level.

"I don't know what the heck we're going to do for that, and I also am concerned about that roof," Brown said. "Not to be kind of gross here, but I'm concerned about [medical and mortuary disaster team] assets and their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe."...

Brown, in an interview yesterday, agreed that Bush was engaged in the emergency but said the president was overconfident of FEMA's capabilities. He dismissed as "baloney" assertions by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that "a fog of war" impaired decision making in Washington.

"There was this fog of bureaucracy," Brown said, repeating his call to restore FEMA to independent, Cabinet-level status outside the department. "People either didn't want to know about it, or didn't want to deal with it."...

In New Orleans, Mayor C. Ray Nagin (D) was visibly shocked when shown the recording by reporters.

It "seems they were aware of everything . . . that we would need lots of help," Nagin said after a post-Mardi Gras news conference. "Why was the response so slow?"

When the video ended, Nagin turned away and said, "Oh, God."

Why was the response so slow? Do incompetence and partisanship come to mind? This is so blatantly and cynically a government of the special interests, by the special interests, for the special interests. In everything this administration has done, there has not been one instance of an action taken for the better good of this country or its citizens.
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