Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Hiring Freeze

Photo credit: Brett Guidry

Apparently, the hiring freeze by Bobby Jindal (above) on all state positions will be lifted in June. But typically, colleges and universities recruit in the spring for open employment lines for the fall semester. Faculty and staff often commit to verbal agreements, with officially binding paperwork completed in the summer. At this point, administrators cannot make verbal agreements with confidence, and prospective faculty and staff will be reluctant to rely on agreements pending approval by Angele Davis of the governor's budget office. The outcome: many talented prospective faculty and staff will move on, as in academia, people generally commit to a field rather than to a state or city. Perhaps Governor Jindal's office is correct that requests for exemptions on the basis of demonstrated need will be liberally granted. But many colleges and universities cannot fully demonstrate a need until projected enrollment is met, which, as I see it, will create a delay in much-needed hiring. Such a delay means, logically, a decrease in the applicant pool and subsequent understaffing. The delay may also lead to an over-reliance on adjunct faculty, who are contracted on a course-by-course basis, part-time, for far less compensation for the same work performed by full-time faculty. Typically, they do not receive health benefits.

Also, if being granted an exemption is as easy as asking, on a case-by-case basis, why would Jindal project a $25 million savings? And why would his administration take on such a time-consuming and, doubtless, extremely expensive task of micro-managing hiring decisions?

Further reading:

Louisiana Newslink: Hiring Freeze Jolts UL

The Daily Reveille: Hiring Freeze May Impact University

And more commentary to come.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Stuff of Insomnia

for a college/university educator:

I'm familiar with more than a few state universities/colleges in this area. None are known for overstaffing. And the understatement of the year is that none are known for overpaying faculty and staff. Quite the contrary. Why does the governor fail to trust the presidents or administrators of these institutions? Is this an attempt to override the better judgment of administrators by denying thier requests for exemptions, therefore forcing these institutions to 1) increase the number of students per course, 2) increase the course load of faculty and the student/work load of support staff, and 3) decrease the support services and quality of education that Louisiana's college students receive for their tuition dollars?

Please let me know if there is a better explanation. I really, really want to be wrong about this.

State colleges pressing for thaw in hiring freeze

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)-- Louisiana's colleges are pressing for at least a partial waiver of Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring freeze for their campuses, saying the freeze could hinder their recruitment of new faculty, instructional staff and campus police officers.

So far, the schools' requests have been denied by Jindal's top budget officer, Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, who on Monday rejected their latest proposal. The colleges can hire people -- but only with Davis' approval on a case-by-case basis.

Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Savoie said the public colleges and universities asked the governor's budget office to lift the hiring freeze for filling teaching jobs, security positions and other student services staff, like counselors and advisers.

The hiring would need approval of the college system presidents, rather than just campus administrators, and the presidents would have to report the hiring to Jindal's budget office but wouldn't need Davis' permission, under the proposal Savoie recommended.

"We think that will help to speed the process up, and the system presidents are supposed to be in charge of hiring anyway," Savoie said.

Davis denied the request and said university hirings still will need approval from her office before the jobs can be filled. In a letter to Savoie, she said she would work to quickly review requests for hiring when the universities fill out the required paperwork.

"We understand the vital role our higher education institutions have in Louisiana. Upon receipt, we will expedite your exemption requests," Davis wrote.

Jindal froze state agency hiring on his first full day in office, saying he wanted to try to put limits on government spending and save money. Davis must sign off on new hires after the agencies explain why they want to fill the jobs.

Savoie said the hiring freeze comes in the midst of the heaviest faculty recruiting season for universities and as the technical college campuses were readying to hire their adjunct teaching staff.

One exception to the freeze has been granted so far. Davis lifted it for direct patient care positions in the LSU public hospital system after the hospitals said the freeze could harm efforts to rebuild health care systems in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Last week, Davis gave LSU System President John Lombardi permission to fill open, patient-care jobs.

Savoie said higher education institutions first asked for a blanket exemption to the hiring freeze -- a request also rejected by Davis. Negotiations have continued with Davis since then, he said.

"It may come down here with a big red 'No,' but we'll keep trying," Savoie said of the colleges' requests.

The hiring freeze was enacted in the middle of a budget year that brought millions of new dollars to the state's public colleges and universities, designed to expand and improve educational programs. Savoie said many of the schools planned to use the money to hire new professors and instructional staff.

In a letter to Davis, asking for the blanket exemption that was denied, Savoie said the governor's order will cripple schools' abilities to follow-through on their plans to spend the new influx of money.

"For too long the administrators of our institutions have had to make tough choices and sacrifices simply because adequate funding was not available," Savoie wrote. "It is somewhat ironic that now that funding is available, we may still be restricted in our ability to use those resources in securing the personnel so vital to our mission."

Davis spokesman Michael DiResto said the process for requesting individual exemptions to the hiring freeze isn't complicated or time-consuming. He said there's no evidence requiring the extra paperwork and review will jeopardize the colleges' abilities to fill needed positions.

"It has not been demonstrated that this review process for exemptions is going to in any way jeopardize or cripple anything," DiResto said.

And another thing: The logic in this last sentence just kills me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

And Thanks Again.

Photo Credit: Eric Hand
From Salon, Jan. 29, 2008 | Last summer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was publicly shamed when lawmakers revealed the agency, to avoid lawsuits, put off testing trailers used to house Hurricane Katrina victims for formaldehyde, a toxic chemical. Now, documents obtained by Salon show that FEMA also pressured scientists to water down a report on the health risks of formaldehyde. FEMA officials instructed the scientists to omit any references to cancer or other long-term health risks from exposure to formaldehyde in FEMA trailers.

In a scathing letter sent today to Dr. Howard Frumkin, chief of the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Reps. Brad Miller, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, and Nick Lampson, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, wrote, "you appear to have been complicit in giving FEMA precisely what they wanted ... However what FEMA wanted and what you approved giving them was not the whole truth regarding formaldehyde. It was not based on 'best science,' nor did it provide 'trusted health information' to the Katrina survivors." FEMA and ATSDR officials are expected to testify Tuesday before the House Committee on Homeland Security, which is also investigating the matter.

After Hurricane Katrina, FEMA placed tens of thousands of displaced families in travel trailers, more than 40,000 of which are still in use. Almost immediately, hundreds of families called FEMA to complain of illnesses, from breathing difficulties, bloody noses and rashes to more serious problems, and even deaths, possibly connected to high levels of formaldehyde gas permeating the trailers. Formaldehyde is a nearly colorless gas with a pungent, irritating odor even at low levels. It is used in many products and manufacturing procedures, notably as an adhesive in plywood used to make trailers. Health reports reveal that exposure to formaldehyde can impact fertility and the developing fetus, leading to spontaneous abortion or physical malformations.

In May 2006, FEMA asked ATSDR to compose a "health consultation" on the FEMA trailers. Dr. Christopher De Rosa, chief of toxicology for ATSDR, told FEMA that any report on health risks of exposure to formaldehyde would have to include information on the risk of cancer and other potential long-term problems. At that point, De Rosa was cut out of the loop. Records show that FEMA contacted two of De Rosa's staffers, who then prepared the misleading consultation. When, nine months later, De Rosa learned ATSDR had omitted the key health information in its advisory, he drafted a letter to FEMA trial attorney Patrick Edward Preston.

"I am concerned that this health consultation is incomplete and perhaps misleading," De Rosa wrote. "Formaldehyde is classified as 'reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.' As such, there is no recognized 'safe level' of exposure. Thus, any level of exposure to formaldehyde may pose a cancer risk, regardless of duration. Failure to communicate this issue is possibly misleading, and a threat to public health."

De Rosa also wrote to Frumkin, noting "FEMA's initial contact came directly to me nine months ago on this issue." "I reviewed the proposed statement and specified that they had neglected to address longer term risk including cancer." After eight months of tense negotiations, a revised report included references to the potentially harmful effects of formaldehyde. But other health information, including the likelihood of other toxic gases, such as toluene, being present, was omitted, as was De Rosa's insistence that ATSDR call for the government to take immediate action to end formaldehyde exposure to trailer residents and monitor them for long-term harmful effects. Records show that following his protests, De Rosa in October 2007 was "reassigned" out of his long-term post as director of ATSDR's divison of toxicology and environmental medicine. De Rosa was not available for comment.

In their letter to Frumkin, the lawmakers wrote, "Yet, even after you were specifically told about the scientifically flawed and potentially misleading information in this report and apparently agreed that it should be amended, your agency did not revise this Health Consultation until seven months later in October 2007. Your lack of urgency in this matter is remarkable." A call to Frumkin's office was not returned. More from Salon's "Fema Covered Up Cancer Risks"

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gee, Thanks

Photo credit: Rob Sheridan

Times Picayune, 1/28/08:

In a nod to the hurricane recovery along the Gulf Coast, President Bush is expected to announce tonight that New Orleans will host the annual summit of North American leaders in April.

A senior White House official said Bush chose New Orleans to honor the "resilience" of Gulf Coast residents and the outpouring of volunteerism that has flowered in the areas hardest hit by the 2005 hurricanes...

Falling more than two and a half years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the region, the summit is likely to refocus international attention on the slow pace of the recovery and also serve as an economic boost [?]for the city. Bush called Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin today to let them know.

The decision by the White House to host the summit in New Orleans comes just months after the Presidential Debate Commission passed up the city's application raising questions about whether the city had recovered sufficiently. More

Addendum: In case you are subjecting yourself to the State of the Union address (I am not), here's kind of a fun game. In years past, a friend and I would turn on our instant messengers and send a * each time Bush said the opposite of what is true (e.g., "we're fighting for democracy"), a # each time he projected his own character or actions onto others (e.g., "_____ is an evil tyrant"), and a ? each time he mangled the English language. There's no real scoring system here, but the game is guaranteed to keep your fingers moving faster than you'd even imagine and provides a little mechanism for venting stress/frustration/outrage.--A.F.

Man and Dog

Photo credit: R.G.

Letter From a Friend:

Dooley [that dog, right there] and I dropped a tennis ball down my toilet last night as it was flushing. He always drinks from there (won’t drink from his dish), so I make sure it is flushed. He came in from playing ball (with it in his mouth), so, knowing he’d be thirsty, I flushed it just in case it wasn’t totally fresh. Of course he put his head in there with the ball in his mouth, as he hates to let go of it unless he has to (why didn’t I anticipate that??). Well, you know the rest, and now the toilet is plugged. I reached my hand up there as far as it could go, but it was beyond retrieving. Now, not only can’t I use the toilet, but I have to dismantle the whole thing and hope like hell the ball didn’t make it into the lower pipes. Ordinarily, you’d use a snake (you probably know what that is) to get the plug out, but since it’s a tennis ball, that would only drive it further down the pipes. It will probably take 1,000 yrs for a tennis ball to break down in water. If the ball is not visible once I remove the toilet from the floor, I’ll have to tear apart the pipes in the basement until I find it. How dumb is that?!?!

I didn’t tell this story to anyone at work today, because its just too ridiculous. It should be impossible to flush a tennis ball down the toilet, because they float too well, and it shouldn’t really fit. Well, Dooley dropped it at just the right time, and I tried to grab it before it went down (with his head in the way), managing to give it just that little touch it needed to go fully in. I stood in disbelief after the ball vanished out of sight and didn’t come back up, and the water slowly stopped flowing. I flushed again, hoping it might go straight thru (a bad idea), almost causing a flood in the bathroom. Meanwhile Dooley is circling the toilet with his nose in the water because he knows his ball must be down there, barking because he wants me to get it out. Good grief.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Same People...

who disappointed us very deeply not so long ago by blindly following Judith Miller's claims, vetted exclusively from Ahmad Chalabi, that there were in fact WMD in Iraq, have done it again. The editorial board of that "gold standard" of U.S. reporting, The New York Times, has endorsed Hillary Clinton on the following grounds:

It is unfair, especially after seven years of Mr. Bush’s inept leadership, but any Democrat will face tougher questioning about his or her fitness to be commander in chief. Mrs. Clinton has more than cleared that bar, using her years in the Senate well to immerse herself in national security issues, and has won the respect of world leaders and many in the American military. She would be a strong commander in chief.

She has cleared that bar? By immersing herself? She claims to have realized that the rationale for war was deeply flawed at about the same time as...the majority of the American people, ahem. She endorsed The Patriot Act. She's done nothing aggressive to challenge or even publicize the rise of Blackwater. She sniffed at the idea of "talking" to "rogue nations" without condition. As Bark, Bugs, Leaves and Lizards points out today, she's in favor of immediately deporting illegal immigrants who "commit a crime."

Domestically, Mrs. Clinton has tackled complex policy issues, sometimes failing. She has shown a willingness to learn and change. Her current proposals on health insurance reflect a clear shift from her first, famously disastrous foray into the issue. She has learned that powerful interests cannot simply be left out of the meetings. She understands that all Americans must be covered — but must be allowed to choose their coverage, including keeping their current plans. Mr. Obama may also be capable of tackling such issues, but we have not yet seen it. Voters have to judge candidates not just on the promise they hold, but also on the here and now.

I need a clearer sense of what "a willingness to learn and change" constitutes? I don't know about the learning, but the changing can be traced almost to the second with shifts in popular opinion. Sitting on the board of WalMart, for instance, she was willing to profit from what she had to know was a calculated devastation of rural America's economy. Later, when public sentiment against Walmart emerged, she "learned and changed." The same was true with her endorsement of an early version of the 2005 bankruptcy bill that severely jeopardizes middle-class families (and especially those who may need to file as a result of a catastrophic medical expense). As it was with her support for the war, her "learning and changing" come at a hefty cost, once considerable damage is done. Her "clear shift" from her "first, famously disastrous foray" into healthcare reform is a shift from demanding an approximation of the other, best-working systems offered in "The First World" to a shameless nod to insurance companies. Mandating health insurance--imposing a fine on those who cannot afford it--adds insult to injury for the uninsured. I understand that her plan is to make insurance affordable, but the mandate is frightening, given that mandates tend to stick while "price caps" do not.

The sense of possibility, of a generational shift, rouses Mr. Obama’s audiences and not just through rhetorical flourishes. He shows voters that he understands how much they hunger for a break with the Bush years, for leadership and vision and true bipartisanship. We hunger for that, too. But we need more specifics to go with his amorphous promise of a new governing majority, a clearer sense of how he would govern.

If I were a delusional narcissist, I'd think the NYT were just trying to piss me off with that one. But seriously, "bipartisanship" does not mean caving in to (and profiting from) corporate interests until your prospective voters notice. There was a time when I seriously wanted to support Hillary, but that was before I witnessed her following this pattern over and over.

If you've been following Hillary's comments in the debates, you too may notice that the endorsement sounds as though she wrote it herself. One member of the Editorial Board was a speech writer for Bill.

I'll still read your stuff, NYT Editorial Board, and some of it I will still respect and quote, and I am sure that this endorsement was not a unanimous decision, so I'll try to cut some slack on behalf of those among you who are probably more disappointed than I am. The rest of you, please demonstrate a willingness to learn and change, okay?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Where's the Funk?

As I attempt to publish a rant about the two-headed monster, Bill and Hillary, and their shockingly low-down campaign strategies, my problem is that they produce the lies and hateful rhetoric so fast that as soon as I sink my teeth into one point, they trump themselves.

BUT--Here's the funk! Let's get this Mardi Gras really rolling! Here's Tuts Washington performing with Allen Toussaint, in Tipitina's, across the street from where I live, praise be :), and explaining how his "Junker Blues" later became Professor Longhair's "Tipitina."

And here's a great short doc on Professor Longhair. (Just be a little patient if you're not multi-lingual.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thanks, Ya'll!

Photo and more info about Krewe of Pan and Cult of Lafcadio:

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Horror...

Photo Credit: Adam et Eve, Luna's dreams

It turns out that new studies indicate that the aftermath of abortion is
twice as horrific as we thought. Men, too, are said to suffer from Post
Abortion Syndrome (PAS), which includes depression and flashbacks and turning to
drugs and alcohol to stop the pain associated with the termination of their
partner's pregnancy. And PAS among men is a now a talking point among
anti-choice activists and legislators. Research on PAS would be
interesting and helpful...if it were real.

But, alas, it's based on the same faulty logic and insidious assumptions as
"research" indicating that women who have abortions are more likely to become
child abusers if they do give birth. (The reasoning: obviously, if a
woman would abort a fetus, god-only-knows what she'd do to a child.)

Assuming that abortion is not a traumatic experience for many women and their partners would be dumb. But the trumping up of "scientific" evidence to fortify arguments for anti-choice legislation is very scary.

Find this information and much more in Sarah Blustain's article "Pity the Man" at The Nation.

If you'd like to get (more) good and mad, you might also visit, where you can find the claim that abortion causes breast cancer. The reasoning: rates of breast cancer have risen since Roe v. Wade. [ has the rate of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil! Yikes!]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Democratic Debate: Bankruptcy

Amidst the three candidates apologizing to and praising one another and declaring for whatever reason that they were all pretty much the same last night, at least one question, particularly relevant to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, should have revealed one of the many relevant differences between them.

According to a recent report on NPR, this year, more people are expected to file for bankruptcy than suffer a heart attack, graduate from college or file for divorce.

Yet, in 2005, the passage of the "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" (the quotation marks are there for a reason) made filing bankruptcy much harder for working- and middle-class families. Those with an income exceeding the median income for their state could no longer discharge debt, but instead were subject to a judge's estimation of how much they could continue to pay, and were mandated to atttend credit counseling. The median income per household in Louisiana, by the way, is $39,337 .

It's not surprising that this measure was lobbied by credit card companies and sub-prime lenders who knew what was coming. Personally, I thought just about everybody should have filed bankruptcy in advance of the effective date of this legislation, but that's just me.

Last night, Tim Russert asked Hillary Clinton,

"Senator Clinton, you voted for the same 2001 bankruptcy bill that Senator
Edwards just said he was wrong about. After you did that, the Consumer
Federation of America said that your reversal on that bill, voting for it,
was the death knell for the opponents of the bill. Do you regret that vote?"

Her response:

"Sure I do, but it never became law, as you know. It got tied up. It was a bill
that had some things I agreed with and other things I didn't agree with, and I
was happy that it never became law. I opposed the 2005 bill as well. But let's talk about where we are now with bankruptcy." More.

Well, hm. She may have opposed it, but she didn't vote against it. According Katharine Q. Seelye at New York Times, who traces the 2005 bill to its inception, years earlier:

"The bill popped up again 2001, which was Mrs. Clinton’s first year in the
Senate. She worked with Republicans on it and was one of 36 Democrats who helped
it pass the Senate, saying it had been improved from when she opposed it. Still,
this version was vigorously opposed by consumer groups and unions, and
ultimately did not become law.

When the bill came up again in 2005, Mrs. Clinton missed the vote. She did
vote against a procedural motion involving the bill and said that had she been
present, she would have voted against the bill itself."

Here was Obama's response to the same question:

"I opposed them both. I think they were a bad idea. Because they were pushed
by the credit card companies. They were pushed by the mortgage companies. And
they put the interests of those banks and financial institutions ahead of the
interests of the American people. " More.

Obama really did vote against the 2005 bill. He wasn't in the Senate in 2001, but I believe him that he opposed the 2001 bill.

I mean, don't we need a president who's a little more perspicacious (read: not so beholden to multi-national corporate interests) than Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have been regarding the war and measures such as bankruptcy reform? One who's not going to just sit there and say he or she regrets supporting legislation that fucks us the hell up and isn't going to be undone, but he or she has learned a lesson, and so what we have to do is start from where we are now [that they've fucked us the hell up but are sorry for it]?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

About AF: The Third Return, Part I (continued)

Photo Credits: DSM, Flood,

As lucky as I would again like to emphasize that I was in returning to New Orleans, I would also like to point out lingering symptoms associated with all described in the last post. I'm doing that in the spirit of understanding that if these symptoms existed for me, I can scarcely guess how severe they must have been, or how many more there must have been, for others:

  • a newfound sense of tremendous vulnerability, wrought not only, as one may expect, by experiencing a disaster (notice I didn't say "natural disaster") but at the hands of those who attempted to exploit or otherwise profit from those most affected and, in the situation as it was, could get away with doing so.

  • insomnia, inability to concentrate, fatigue, and nagging physical symptoms never experienced before.

  • a certain cognitive dissonance associated with the realization that what was being reported nationally was not what was actually happening. Everyone realizes this on an abstract level, but living it, often to the extreme, means experiencing that sense of betrayal in a visceral way.

  • a sense of living in survival mode, at the bottom of Maslov's hierachy, whatever you want to call it, for well over a year after. Just because there's food and safety, a place to live, a job and some cash in the account, etc, doesn't mean that a person's whole psyche accepts any of that right away, if those basic elements are there, which for a lot of people here, they still aren't.

Having left the city for a year, I can attest to the fact that a change in locale does not alleviate these symptoms. Most of those I know who have started lives elsewhere report them, too, to varying degrees.

My hat really goes off to those who did not contibute to Post-Katrina-Stress-Disorder for those who remained here: reporters and bloggers and documentary makers who told/exposed the truth; a few politicians who really want(ed) to help; landlords who did not hike their rent to levels far out of step with increases in insurance coverage and property tax just because the market would temporarily allow; contractors who made good on their promises; all the people and organizations who have fought and fought and fought to do the right thing. Please feel free to help me list them here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

It Can't Hurt...

Thanks, Dennis Kucinich! At the very least, a recount of New Hampshire's votes will bring attention to touch screen voting in many states, which is even more insidious, as I understand it, than New Hampshire's optical scan system, though both are products of Diebold.
See Farhad Manjoo's latest article in Salon:
It is more than a little weird that pre-election and exit polls have been a little wacky in the past...8 years. And I don't know about you, but it's still bugging me that Pat Buchanan managed to pull out the Jewish vote in Florida 2000. But I know that was just user error because of confusing butterfly ballots, another issue entirely. Call me paranoid.
Photo Credit:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

About AF: The Third Return, Part I

Man, I am SO glad to be back in New Orleans. I've considered it home for a decade. It's the only place in the U.S. that I want to be.

I left the first time in 2002 for New York City and came back in 2003. It wasn't a cliched return because I couldn't make it there--I had a good though infuriating job, a nice apartment in Brooklyn, and the connections I needed to make things work. I came back because I was lonely for New Orleans. I kept dreaming about Magazine Street and potholes and people being themselves and many of the things I'd complained about when I lived here. And then there was this crystallized moment when I'd fallen asleep with the tv on and woke up to Louis Armstrong's "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans." I started crying. I had to come back even if it meant being in between jobs for awhile, living without health insurance, running up credit cards. I realized it was the only place I'd ever lived that was real, the only place where anything was going on. I drove the 28 hours straight.

I left the second time on August 28, 2005--wearing the t-shirt and sweats I'd slept in, with my dog, two books, one cd, and one change of clothes--for my home town, 600 miles away, a 20-hour drive that day. This second departure was made possible by several lucky breaks, including but not limited to the following: I had a relative outside the projected path of the storm, a 200-something mile swath; as a "middle-class" person, I had a car that would idle long enough, without overheating, to get to Meridian, MS, where traffic finally became traffic rather than a parking lot; because of a meager income, twice that of the median income for New Orleans residents, I had $132 in my bank account (despite it being the end of the month) and a credit card with a little space on it; and I had a full tank of gas. I include these details for anyone who may wonder why everyone didn't get out of the city.

I returned five weeks later, the first day people in my zip were allowed back into the city. I drove in from the west, down Claiborne, through a city on fire, literally, through a scene resembling a Bosch painting, but one that can only really be understood by anybody else who saw it.

I was lucky. My apartment did not flood. It had been "looted" (and I don't think by the much- hyped "looters" on CNN et al, either). The street I lived on was barely passable. A tree was on my roof. My block was litttered with the hot, decomposing corpses of dogs and cats. Severed power and cable lines hung limp. Flies, rats and mice were everywhere, inside and out. The fridge was full of maggots even though the only things in there had been condiments and frozen brocoli. Yet somehow my apt was one of the only ones in the city with running water, electricty, and cable. I still had a regular paycheck and a job for awhile, one that I could do from home. I had some FEMA money left, only because I happened to be the only one who lived at my address. Any complaints of mine in this regard are nothing but whining, comparatively.

This is the thing: I didn't lose my stuff or my dwelling, and I can't speak for the people who did at all. But I thought for a good month that I had, and that wasn't what was primarily important to me. What really gets a person is this and this and this and this. What really gets a person is seeing their own government let its people literally die. There's something about that that nobody gets over, even if there is some kind of reparation or apology later, which in this case there obviously hasn't been.

This post doesn't stop here, I bit off more than I could chew, and I may or may not come back to it. If you're from here, you know all these stories and you know what I mean. I don't want this blog in general to be narrative or autobiographical or any of that. This is just a little of what's up with A.F. in N.O.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The First Woman President?

Toni Morrison dubbed Bill Clinton the "first black president." Well, I'm dubbing Obama the first woman. Hillary does not represent me or my woman-ness or my feminism or anything like that, and I can't see how she represents anybody else's, either.

Despite her recently hyped rejection of CAFTA, she has traditionally voted with the GOP for trade agreements that victimize third-world women and children and outsource U.S. labor. Obama hasn't.

She has supported an imperialist war that creates worse conditions for Iraqi women than Saddam's regime did. Obama does not.

She is no challenge to the current soft-fascist, soft-money regime in the U.S. (the multi-national corporate master of us all) because she thought she needed it to win her place in history. Obama didn't need them after all.

And lately, she seems to be stooping even lower by employing the decades-old GOP, Good Ol' Boy, campaign strategy: Dividing working-and middle-class voters around the issue of race rather than offering them anything in exchange for their votes. It's a sad fact that a lot of people vote their prejudice, and she knows it. Her LBJ comments smack of a certain smug "liberal" white supremacy and signal to me that she's just as ready to scare up some biggoted white votes as she was to accept a fundraiser from Rupert Murdoch, to support the war, and to tout The Patriot Act. None of this is any other than the patriarchal bullshit we've been living with already.

As Michelle Obama says,

"Dream of a President who was raised like Barack was by a single mom who had to work and go to school and raise her kids and accept food stamps once in a while. Imagine a President who knows what that’s like."

That president would come about as close to honorary womanhood as any I've seen.

Photo Credit: