Monday, August 31, 2009

Birthday Blues

Well, as a divisible-by-5-and-11 birthday goodie, this absolutely sucks.

Nowhere on my birthday "wish list" did I leave a hint of, "A Photo-Journal Record to Watch as the First Amendment Sinks into the Denver Soil." I'm kinda partial to the First Amendment -- it's nearly as cool as the Second.

The next thing you'll tell me is that there are self-avowed Communists in the White House acting as close "Advisers" to the President. What's that?!?!? The hell, you say?!?!

And here I thought last year's birthday -- 16 hours of which were spent packing & unpacking the car and/or stuck in contraflow traffic on I-55 at 3 m.p.h. with three dogs, no husband, and no bathroom to escape Hurricane Gustav's wrath -- sucked pretty badly.

In retrospect, MoogieB'Day 2008 was a grand fete by comparison.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Anniversary #4: Katrina's Continuing Legacy

If you will, please indulge me one last Katrina memory on this 4th anniversary of the near-extinction of my adopted home, and I'll do my very best to let her go thereafter. (No irrational promises, you understand!)

This morning, we took Bouie to Bayou St. John, across from City Park, to swim and run. After his swim (which was interrupted by a very rude pit bull mix named, for some unbeknownst reason, "Baby"), we headed down the road for a little fetching and running on the remains of one of the park's golf courses. Even though there is SO much progress in the Park, Mid City and Lakeview, there are still scars everywhere -- and they seem to ache this time of year -- kinda like Harry Potter's scar burned when Voldemort was out and about, I imagine. The little stump, pictured above, was one of the thousands of trees that drowned in the deluge four years ago.

But, I managed to scout out some pretty Spanish-moss-bedecked spots for bridal portraits to be shot in October, so it's getting better every day.

The following was written in August of 2006 to preserve the memory and the emotions:

I am a native of Little Rock where I practiced law, volunteered a lot, sent children to public schools, and taught at UALR. Then, somewhere between 1999 and 2001, I followed my husband’s job to live near the Mississippi River in The City That Care Forgot.

Here in New Orleans I volunteered a lot and sent our youngest child off to LSU. As I made the transition from Razorback Stadium to Tigerland, I also grew a deep appreciation for a genuinely unique city that is populated by fascinating characters and wonderful friends; oozing with an indefinable, nearly tactile, culture; home to inexplicable, spectator-sport politics; and blessed with food that is nothing short of divinely inspired. I found another “home.”

On Saturday, August 27th, 2005, we nailed the shutters closed, performed all those tedious bad-weather tasks that must be done in the oppressive heat, and walked to Copeland’s at the corner of Napoleon and St. Charles Avenue for a late supper and a debate over whether we really needed to evacuate. After all, we had not previously jumped ship to escape a storm since we moved here, and we had done pretty well even though Cindy dinged up our backyard grill and messed with a good number of neighborhood trees in July. I lost the debate. So, nearly a year ago, in the wee hours of August 28th to be specific, my husband and I packed up the two dogs, roughly four days’ clothing, and a few important papers, and crept away from New Orleans, heading north amid heavy traffic in “contraflow” to weather Hurricane Katrina at our son’s home in Little Rock.

Wicked truth be told, even though I resisted evacuating at first, I was secretly a little happy to have an excuse enabling me to spend my August 31st birthday with family and friends in Little Rock. I never dreamed that I would also be able to spend Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day with them.

Upon reaching Little Rock some eight or nine hours later, we were welcomed by friends gathered at our son’s house and the incessant ringing of telephones – people we hadn’t seen in years were calling to check on us from all over the country. Serious head rush! Our children and their friends declared a “Hurricane Party,” so we popped the corks out of several bottles of wine that I had grabbed on the way out the door (Arkansas is dry on Sunday except in certain restaurants), dug into the cooler that I had jam-packed with stuff from the fridge and freezer, grilled a bunch of chicken, ate strawberries, and played board games well into the early morning hours of the 29th. Everyone, that is, except my husband who somehow intuited what was about to happen. We deemed him a grumpy old grouch and played on.

I recall being so relieved when my husband awakened me on the 29th with the news that Katrina had “wobbled,” sparing our adopted city from a direct hit. I also remember the kick-in-the-gut feeling later in the day, glued to cable news coverage, as levees began to fail. And I remember going kind of numb the following days as another and yet another levee failed, inundating eighty percent of the city’s east bank and simmering it for weeks beneath the brutal, relentless sun.

In retrospect, I suppose my husband was justified in being a grouch that first night of our exile.

All the details of those first few days – the horrors unfolding on the television screen, the feelings of impotence and fury at being unable to do anything about it, the uncertainty about the condition of our house and the whereabouts of friends and neighbors, the frustration at being unable to get through to anyone on my 504 cell phone – are seared indelibly into my memory. I visit those places in my mind less frequently these days, but the threat posed last week by Tropical Storm Chris caused a lot of flotsam to float to the surface of my consciousness. Along with a few warm fuzzies.

I remember how Arkansans sprang into action to help untold thousands of unexpected guests. We heard so many heart-warming tales. Churches in tiny delta towns created impromptu shelters in their recreation halls where church members cooked and cooked and put on feeds for strangers that rivaled those to be seen at the very grandest of southern funerals. Good-hearted souls went to help in one shelter at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds and wound up taking entire families home with them to stay for weeks in spare bedrooms. Schools adopted Gulf Coast children and bent over backward to find ways to allow them to engage in whatever extracurricular activities they had enjoyed at home. After recruiting a couple of trucks and drivers willing to donate their rigs and time to transport whatever was gathered, radio stations set up a location at War Memorial Stadium to accept donations of water and bedding. The response was way beyond overwhelming, and what followed became my best memory of The Aftermath.

It began with a call from younger daughter on Wednesday, my birthday, a little before noon. She had been listening to KARN, the local talk-radio station, where she learned of its spontaneous drive to collect water to be sent to the coast. When she arrived to drop off her contributions at the stadium, she saw that they were into the “charitable-site-management” game a little too far over their heads. One kind (and desperate!) young man, one of the afternoon-drive-time producers, asked if there was any way she could stay to volunteer, and she eagerly jumped at the chance to do something, anything, to help.

No, she probably lunged at the chance, afraid it might elude her grasp. Like me, and even though they had moved back to Little Rock from Baton Rouge more than a year earlier, our daughters felt the survivor’s guilt – the why-were-we-spared bewilderment and shame at being comfortable and dry while so many New Orleanians were still trying to escape from their roofs, fighting off dehydration and the fear of dying alone, or watching national news as their homes were swallowed up by floodwaters that simply would not stop spreading.

She made her mark. No less than an hour later, as I stood in line at Walgreen's to purchase my contributions, she called to ask if I could volunteer – they were covered up with all kinds of stuff and needed help unloading and organizing inside War Memorial. By the time I got to the stadium, she had been put in charge of the entire “warehouse” operation and was bustling around like a woman possessed. Scores of people were waiting in line to donate money and everything from food to toiletries to paper products to baby necessities, not just water and bed linens, and she had set up a system in which the donations were sorted and labeled, even sorting clothing by gender, age, and size. In an un-air-conditioned, open-air concrete structure with no hanging racks our youngest had created a General Store!

Older daughter arrived to pitch in after she got off work. Daughter-in-law set up a toy-donation drive at the pre-school where she worked. The hair salon where younger daughter worked part-time set up a collection for the Louisiana SPCA. A local engineer drew up a map for evacuees that detailed the locations of special needs services and shopping areas, while a copy store (managed by a man whose seventeen relatives from the Buras vicinity were staying with him) reproduced hundreds of copies of the map free of charge. And back at the stadium, that handful of volunteers created a mega-store in one afternoon where, for the next two days, evacuees could come to “shop” for both immediate and long-term needs. And donations kept pouring in for days, as did additional volunteers (whose number included many friends that responded to daughters’ pleas).

Churches and other non-profits arranged transportation for evacuees from many of the shelters so they could shop. The location of our site proved to be truly serendipitous for many evacuees – it was no less than two blocks from the Red Cross headquarters in Little Rock and adjacent to the university hospital and a prominent cancer treatment facility. One woman who had dropped her husband off for radiation therapy came by to see what was going on. Her attire and genteel demeanor suggested that she had never needed to accept a hand-out in her whole life, but that day she asked if she could take a light jacket for her teenage son because she never imagined summer evenings could be so cool in Arkansas. We recommended that she take her time to look around, and I visited with her about home as we perused the aisles. She spied a package of “Community Coffee, New Orleans Blend” and shyly asked if she could take it with her, tears welling in her eyes, hesitant to ask because it was the last. When I told her that she was more than welcome to it, the tears spilled over and she babbled that her husband would only drink that particular brand of coffee, and that coffee was one of the few things to settle his stomach after treatment, and that she wanted him not to be so miserable for just a little while. She threw her arms around me, even though I was sweaty, smelly and filthy, and whimpered for a few minutes while I held her. I invited her to bring her son back the next day to see if there was anything else he could use, but they didn’t come. I hope she and her family are home and doing well.

I had a delightful birthday dinner with family and friends at a new-to-me place in the River Market district. Serendipitously again, we learned that our waiter’s sister had evacuated from her relatively new restaurant on Magazine Street and hadn’t been able to find out anything about the neighborhood. I told him about the “what about my neighborhood” message board on and he called her right away to fill her in. (I later found out that their house suffered minor flooding, but the business stayed safe, even escaping looters – I suppose there are many intangible benefits to locating in the block down from a police district headquarters – and that she and her husband are expecting their first child soon. A little Katrina dividend.) The next night at a different restaurant, the waiter treated me to a glass of wine on the house and a little wink of his eye. So many meaningful and unexpected small kindnesses. It was incredible.

My daughters stayed at the stadium late, late at night for those few days, and younger daughter returned early, early in the mornings – not an easy feat for her. We had to leave the stadium by Friday afternoon because high school football loomed, so all the donations were packed up and moved to a shelter site. It felt so comforting to be a part of something positive, something that truly relieved a little bit of the palpable suffering and uncertainty that enveloped us all. And watching my little girls blossom into compassionate women of action before my very eyes was certainly a lagniappe that I relish even today.

Later in September we did it all again, only this time restricting donations to baby items and money, non-perishable food, or water to replenish the seriously depleted Arkansas Food Bank Network. The second time was nearly as successful and better organized than the first, but the frenetic, emotion-driven feeling of that first event had passed. The second time around, we had begrudgingly come to accept that we were in for a long haul, but we still had no idea how very long it would take for us to move home.

Many are still waiting to find out.

August 2006

. . . and many still wait, even today.
P.S. -- Meanwhile, Copeland's on the bustling corner of St. Charles and Napoleon, the site of our pre-exacuation dinner-debate, remains deserted and boarded up as I type.

Friday, August 28, 2009

R.I.P., Mary Jo; Ta-ta Teddy.

Look at the dates on the Kopechne family headstone -- no one should have to bury a child. Certainly, no one should have to bury a child lost through the unclean hands of a "trusted statesman" and elected official.

This morning's IMAO post examines Random Thoughts about the career and passing of Ted Kennedy. In particular, Frank J. notes that justice would have been served if someone had hit Teddy with a plane, a la 9/11.

My thought: hitting him with the prop of a Coast Guard Rescue Cutter would be much more suitable.

That having been expressed, however, I'm now guilty of disobeying my Sainted Mama's admonition: "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all."

So, yes Ma'am. *crickets.* *cicadas.*

Remembering a Great City, Her More Than 1,400 Dead, and Countless Citizens in Exile

The photo is from yesterday's Times-Picayune; the following letter appears on today's front page.

We're counting on you, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

Tomorrow we will mark the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Louisianians and nearly killed a great American city. We will miss having you in our midst.

We know you don't lack passion for our community and its recovery. Though you haven't been here as president, as a senator you visited five times after Katrina. We remember well the fervor of your speech at Tulane University on your last visit, a year and a half ago.

"I promise you that when I'm in the White House, I will commit myself every day to keeping up Washington's end of the bargain, " you said then. "This will be a priority of my presidency. And I will make it clear to members of my administration that their responsibilities don't end in places like the 9th Ward; they begin in places like the 9th Ward."

We await the fulfillment of many of these promises. We are grateful for the federal aid that has flowed our way, including $14.7 billion in improvements to levees and drainage and other storm protection measures. And under your administration, the federal recovery bureaucracy has been eased, as even Republican officials here acknowledge.

But much remains to be done.

The wetlands and barrier islands that are the first defense of Louisiana's energy coast must be restored if we are to survive long term.

Flood protection on a massive scale, the ultimate rampart the Netherlands saw fit to build, should be our model as well, a vital safeguard against a Category 5 storm and its surge. Such a substantial commitment, you told our reporters last week, "remains a strong goal." For us and for the nation, it's a vital necessity.

The economic revitalization of a new medical facility to replace the destroyed Charity Hospital would give New Orleans a shot in the arm it desperately needs. We urge you to see to it that the stalled project moves forward.

Our community is resilient and hard-working. Together with volunteers from around the country, we are striving to make this a better place than it was before the storm, with renovated houses, vastly improved schools and a unique culture that's as vibrant as ever.

But there's no substitute for the focus, the energy, the commitment that a president alone can bestow. There's no substitute for you, as president, seeing our recovery and its halting progress with your own eyes, for taking time to walk in our shoes. So we ask you to bring your considerable intellect, your problem-solving ability, your influence to bear. When a president pays attention, so does the nation.

In the past week, we have hosted several of your Cabinet secretaries. We are grateful for their visits. We were especially impressed with Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan. On this, his third visit since his appointment, he brought his entire senior team with him and committed himself to "building back not just what was there, but building back better and stronger."
That was music to our ears. But it would be a sweeter sound coming from you and spoken on location.

I'll add only that, despite his many shortcomings, President George W. Bush made his remarks on Katrina's anniversary from New Orleans in 2006, 2007, and 2008. First Lady Laura Bush's numerous visits in the years since the storm and flood to work on children's issues and in support of the Public Library re-building efforts probably can't be counted.

We're still waiting on the "O"s to brave the wilds of flyover country on the bayou.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moogie's Independent, Conservative Objections to a Public Health Care System

Last weekend I read a blog post that questions why conservatives have an overarching desire to decry government-operated health care as "evil" and "horrible." The post goes on to analyze TRICARE, TRICARE for Life (active-duty and retired military health benefits) and the VA system, and pronounces them outstanding examples of government-care that military retirees are fighting to retain beyond the current debate. The author states:

"You can't have it both ways. Either TRICARE and the VA are superior systems, worthy of our sacrifice, and thus a government-managed health system can be great. Or, they're terrible, scary, and Communist-Nazi schemes that have to be eliminated, leaving troops and veterans to find their own care for their lost limbs, brain injuries, and other wounds.

"America's veterans and troops would say the former. It's why for years they have fought to expand the government programs, not kill them. That's why we find it so confusing that conservatives want to bar the doors and keep those Americans who want to be in a public system from even having that choice."

It's simply not that black and white.

TRICARE is funded to take care of military families on, or called to, active duty -- those families who make sacrifices daily in order to provide services to the American people. It's a variety of employer-provided healthcare/health insurance: a quid pro quo, if you will, because our national security depends on total troop readiness -- a very complex concept. TRICARE in retirement and TRICARE For Life are available only to those who served a minimum of 20 years, along with a few other prerequisites; they're not for every Veteran, as is the VA. TRICARE and TRICARE For Life are indeed successful health plans (albeit not perfect plans), so why do I cry foul about the "horrors and evils" of a public option or a government-operated health care system/insurance in the context of the public at large?

Here's something to chew on: a "public option" health insurance is little more than a spigot that someone turns on when he needs it, without paying for it in many cases, like pumping out of a well without paying for city water.

That's an American Way, you say. Right? Go out there and witch for the water and dig the well (i.e., opt-in to the public plan)? Bully! But, what happens when the well runs dry?

More often than not, when faced with a dry well, you drill/dig horizontally and tap into your neighbor's spring, thus straining your neighbor's resources until neither of you has water, and the two of you must choose to ration the remaining water. Or you take out a loan to acquire a new water source. Hello, Mr. Growing Deficit.

I don't necessarily believe that government-run health care would be an utter failure (although my husband still swears that the VA killed his father -- and I don't wholly disagree with him) -- because American health care providers are beyond superior for the most part. But, for starters, my objections to providing private option insurance include: (1) finite healthcare resources will ultimately lead to more rationing than we experience even today; (2) no quid pro quo will be required of the average, poor-downtrodden Joe; (3) yet more bureaucracy will be required to manage the system at the federal level; (4) a disastrous chilling effect on the insurance industry will result, potentially crippling a huge percentage of our economy; and (5) a bunch of other stuff that makes my head hurt.

The foregoing is a good beginning to explain why I, as a conservative (and, for full disclosure's sake, a member of a retired military family), object to a public system.

My objection redoubles when taking into consideration the many less-burdensome alternatives on the table that are being ignored in the greater debate: i.e. -- tort reform; removal of interstate competition among private insurers to inspire creative competition, while retaining state oversight for intrastate activity; federal regulation of insurability (pre-existing condition/denial of insurance issues); open negotiation between insured and insurer concerning covered conditions (this could eliminate costly across-the-spectrum coverage for services not required by everyone such as maternity or pediatrics or unique psycho-sexual-physical services and procedures; etc.) Almost all of these suggestions are truly deficit-neutral, so why are they being ignored?

The entire health care reform effort is way over the top in its race to fruition. So, capitalize on that word, "fruition ," and think of reform as ideas that can bear lovely fruit. Then, don't forget about the rotten apple(s) in that proverbial barrel.

Monday, August 24, 2009

NOLA Tea Partiers Flex Their Muscles

The Times-Picayune printed this photograph in yesterday's paper -- note the caption. Senator Vitter had nothing to do with organizing the event -- kudos for that accomplishment go solely to the Northshore Tea Party, Mandeville Tea Party, and Greater News Orleans Tea Party groups. Several (or, apparently a boatload!) of us called and emailed the paper objecting to the inaccurate info in the caption. Here's my email:

"Contrary to the caption beneath the photo of the crowd in today's Times-Picayune, I know for a fact that Senator Vitter had nothing to do with organizing yesterday's Recess Rally Tea Party, although he was welcome to attend as a citizen and taxpayer. I did see Congressman Scalise there, in person, and shook his hand.

"A photograph I took from the Macy's parking deck suggests 1,000+ in attendance at the Rally. The overwhelming sentiment of those in attendance demanded that Congress and the White House slow down and engage in meaningful, multi-partisan debate about the entire issue of health care reform -- not simply how insurance will impact the short-term.

"Tort reform, interstate competition among insurers, regulation of insurability, tax incentives, and increased functionality of Health Savings Accounts are on the table but rarely mentioned. All of the aforementioned can be genuinely deficit-neutral steps to increase access to insurance and reduce health care costs. The bills that have emerged from House and Senate sub-committees are overreaching and bloated, much akin to most legislation emanating from D.C. these days. This issue is too broad and too important to be whisked through the process with little more than Standard Operating Procedure and stealthy, after-hours amendments.

"Our elected representatives from Louisiana need to listen to and heed the well-informed opinions of their constituents. We send them to D.C. to represent us, not to dictate to us. They would do themselves a service by recognizing that their home base ain't Massachusetts or California. Ya know?"

Today, a pretty good retraction appeared on page A-2. One of our organizers also received TWO emails yesterday from the weekend managing editor asking, in essence, that the dogs be called off. Here they are, as forwarded by Glenn Dubroc:

"E-MAIL #1 received at 4:52 pm
Mr. [sic] Dubroc,

I'm letting you know that we plan on publishing a correction on Monday to the photo caption on the rally. Our intention was to give the rally coverage, which is not something we do to all protests. But the size of the group and the relevance of the topic was something that we thought deserved coverage.

The press release sent to the City Desk email account did not make it into the hands of the appropriate editors for Saturday photo assignments. We relied on the robo calls made by Sen. Vitter, including one to my home, as the background for the assignment.

All our corrections run on A2 and believe me, readers know where to find them.

If you have any other concerns, please feel free to contact me. Now maybe we can enjoy the rest of a beautiful Sunday!

FYI: Here's what the Vitter call said:

'Hi, this is Senator David Vitter, calling on behalf of the Louisiana Conservative Action committee, to invite you to join me for a health care tea party this Saturday, Aug. 22. This will be a great opportunity to send a clear message to Washington that we oppose ObamaCare. The health care tea party will be this Saturday, Aug. 22, from 5 to 7 p.m., at Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Causeway, in Metairie. [sic] across from Lakeside Shopping Center. Please join Senator David Vitter at this important health care tea party. I really look forward to seeing you there.'

Your [sic] truly,
Dan Shea
Managing Editor/News
The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans, LA"

Eh -- subject to interpretation, I can see that they got lazy and didn't fact-check the backstory of the tea party. It's still poor journalism, IMHO. Here's the second email:

"E-MAIL #2 received at 6:52 pm
"Dr. Dubroc,

"I was surprised at the size of the rally and had we handled it better we probably would have sent a reporter as well.

"I am [in] no position [to be] looking for a favor, but I would appreciate it if you would let your membership know what happened so our Circulation phone staff are not besieged in the morning. You can forward my email if you like.

"Thanks again. Please feel free to call me if a problem arises again.

"Dan Shea"

Heh. Not only did Shea get the salutation correctly in the second email, he pretty much admitted that we overwhelmed the newspaper. Ah, the smell of newsprint-napalm in the morning!

Does that sound like Astroturf to you, Ms. Pelosi, Barney, Harry? Are y'all ready for September 12th?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recess Rally Tea Party On Health Care Reform -- Greater New Orleans Area

A few pics from yesterday's successful Tea Party in Metairie, Louisiana (in the 93+ degree heat!).

One pic shows Dr. Glenn Dubroc, one of our organizers and very knowledgeable speakers on health issues, taking a pic of "his first Angry Mob" from the podium. Heh. Another depicts the "loyal opposition" -- 3 folks across the street, one in a wheelchair, one in a stroller. The remainder are crowd and sign shots, one taken from the 3d level of the Macy's parking deck (where we had done a little shopping, so we were legitimately entitled to park there!).

One estimate puts the crowd at 1,200 (there were lots of folks bunched up in the all-too-precious shade beneath the trees). Our local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, actually printed a picture of the crowd for a change, but mistakenly captioned it to state that Senator David Vitter (R-LA) had organized the protest. *CHOKE* The organizers firmly told his office, when said office called to inquire about a publicity opp, that the Senator was welcome to attend, but that he, like any other elected official, would not be given the opportunity to speak. And the organizers remained true to their word! Let's see what the Times-Pic does in its itty-bitty, teensy font, page 53 retraction.
**UPDATE** We overwhelmed the Times-Pic phones! Check out yesterday's post!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Go Down, Mose Jeff . . . .

All right! Now we're making some progress!

For the second time in less than a month's passage, we've looked on as TWO members of the Jefferson political machine family were served their just desserts. Earlier this week, "Dollar Bill's" brother, Mose, was convicted by a local jury on 4 of 7 counts in a federal indictment focusing on bribery of a public official.

It seems that, a few years ago, good brother Mose managed to get some $140,000 into the hands of former Orleans Parish School Board member, Ellenese Brooks-Simms, shortly before she rammed through a contract to purchase a software-based teaching system sold by one of Mr. Jefferson's commercial enterprises. Good ol' Mose argued that the money had nothing to do with the contract -- he was simply helping out a friend who was going through hard times. The trouble with his argument is that Ms. Brooks-Simms had already rolled and pleaded out. So, once again in the Jefferson Family saga, condemnatory recorded conversations surfaced, this time courtesy of the subject of the bribe.
Mose got off on the money-laundering count -- that's okay. Downright bribery is a little worse on the going-to-hell scale than re-purposing a few funds.

Next up -- after sentencing and the filing of an Appeal Petition -- the January trial of Mose, sister Betty Jefferson, her daughter, and a few others (including Mose's main squeeze, Renee Gill-Pratt -- former state legislator and New Orleans City Council member) for stealing funds not from mere school children in one of the poorest and most underperforming school districts in the country, but from other, multiple nonprofit groups dedicated to helping impoverished New Orleanians. That gives a whole new meaning to "movin' on up," don't you think?
The whole thing is beginning to resemble a Greek tragedy wherein hubris acts as the catalyst for the downfall of the once-mighty. Without the "pity" factor.

These people -- these successful people -- are supposed to be "role models" and poster children for pulling oneself out of poverty. But when someone emerges from the quicksand of poverty by climbing on the backs of those still being sucked down, he deserves a special comeuppance. It appears that, insofar as the Jefferson family is concerned, the comeuppance will be an extra heapin' helpin' of just desserts, served up cold, just as one would serve revenge.

With a little sugar on top for added sweetness.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Dawning Realization Before a Hot Summer Weekend

Madison Avenue has its ups and downs. Sometimes it scores, sometimes it falls flat and goes down in flames. Other times, it sets the stage to give you a decisive choice between two similar products. That "other times" hit me smack in the brain last week, and it all has to do with the whole stimulus thing.

Viagra vs. Cialis.

Now, I'm not saying that those are products that have a prominent spot in our medicine cabinet -- or even a spot -- but if they did, I've decided on what my preference would be. And, I have an excellent reason to prefer one over the other -- besides the fact that one of them has made a connection that, for all times, ruined a perfectly wonderful Allman Brothers bluesy ballad.

I gotta go with Viagra.

Think about it. With Viagra you get an attentive man who whisks you away to a gorgeous, isolated island, surrounded by azure-colored waters and boasting a cabana with billowy curtains that tempt you to step inside. Or, the attentive man spirits you away to a log cabin in the snowy woods where lazy, cozy fireplace smoke smelling of hickory curls out of the stone chimney to welcome you. I imagine there's dancing and romancing.

With Cialis, you get two, separate, claw-foot bathtubs perched out in the big middle of nowhere. You have to hike to get there. And you get to hold hands between the tubs.

In another lifetime, the bathtubs might have been an adventure; but now that I'm a woman of a certain age, the finer things in life beckon much more strongly -- and are much sexier. Being the gently-aging Princess courted by the handsome, attentive Prince ain't so bad.

Both products' commercials offer a pretty powerful warning, however, and I've often wondered about it. You know -- the warning that advises one to seek medical help for a "stimulation" lasting longer than 4 hours. Which partner, exactly, is supposed to seek the medical assistance?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Return of Moogie

I'm b-a-a-c-k!

Solo road trip and bridal fair successfully completed. Nationwide Health Care , er, Insurance Reform, er, Co-op Option Town Halls continue to "inspire" -- something. Tea Party this weekend. Storms in the Atlantic. Favre re-un-retires. Elvis is still dead in Memphis, but Michael Vick appears to have been resurrected in Philly. Saints whupped up on Cincy in their first pre-season game. Yet another 2 hours in a doctor's ofice have been logged. Creole tomato season is sadly over. Another Jefferson attorney (for Mose Jefferson, Bill's brother) begins his defense today in another corruption/public bribery trial. Kids are back in the schoolyard down the street and buses are rolling. More to follow.

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Forget Health Care Reform -- Watch Out For the Bacon Police!

Some skinny, socialist thrall from Folsom, Louisiana, wrote a letter to the Times-Picayune last Saturday expressing his concerns about the stubborn American crisis of obesity.

His primary target: a $50M advertising campaign promoting some double bacon cheeseburger. While noting that personal responsibility is an important part of our lives, he remained convinced that $2B spent annually on advertising by fast food joints has more influence over our food choices than we do and makes us fatty-fattersons.

This is what made the ol' jaw drop (emphasis mine):

"If personal responsibility is to stand up to TV, radio, and billboards
enticing us to consume more food than any society on earth, does
government have any role to play
? Why is a 32-ounce soft drink
cheaper than a 12-ounce bottle of water? Why is a hamburger cheaper than an

"Sometimes company profits begin to undermine the citizens and
government steps in to balance things out. It's time to begin that

This, my friends, could be the future of this once-free land of ours. And fools like this guy, who want to hand the reins to every breath we take over to a centralized government, are the biggest threat to our few remaining freedoms that are tenuously holding on by a fingernail. He actually believes that bureaucrats know what's best for us! The vast majority of bureaucrats are not experts in their fields -- they're civil servants with cushy, tenured jobs and juicy benefits. I am not willing to give them imprimatur over yet another facet of my decision-making. You shouldn't be, either.

The hubby points out how regulation and taxation have almost broken the tobacco industry (Disclaimer: neither of us is a smoker -- although we are proud, hard-fought ex-smokers and he indulges in the occasional cigar). So, his theory to shore up the tobacco industry and prevent folks from gaining any more weight is to require all obese citizens to take up smoking. We all know that smoking is an appetite suppressant, right -- sounds like a plan to me. (I guess we have to make sure they smoke only tobacco and not cannabis, though. The influence on appetite by cannabis tends to be a little on the other side of the suppressant spectrum! Or so I'm told.)

Give government bureaucrats more control over our food choices, my pudgy little foot. Doesn't this guy remember that bacon is a basic food group?!?!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ramirez Strikes Again, and Other Stuff

There were, literally, hundreds of folks spilling out the door at this morning's Town Hall on health care with Senator David Vitter. I couldn't even find a parking place, so I didn't stay. From the news accounts, however, my concerns were well-represented.

Besides, not getting in kept my blood pressure in check, plus the time to go get my new license plate and purty toenails!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Katrina Chronicle: Recovery Begins

I took this picture of Moogie's Mansion on October 30, 2005, as we prepared to drive back to Little Rock after a weekend trip to New Orleans -- only the second time we had been in our own home since Katrina. The chimneys, plaster, awnings, and broken windows hadn't been repaired yet, and the fence in the back courtyard was still iffy, but we got the shutters open, and I think the ol' gal looked pretty spiffy.

We mowed the lawn, visited with friends and neighbors, patronized a few of the available restaurants (with seriously long waits -- but the wait for Upperline's duck gumbo was sooo worth it!), helped some friends clean out their flooded garage, and bought lottery tickets and liquor on a Sunday simply because we could.

We also learned for the first time what shortages are like: there was very little gasoline; the few operating supermarkets had limited hours (like 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) and supplies (empty bins in the produce department, bare shelves). The shelves at Home Depot were pretty bare, too -- sheet rock was like solid gold, and many are paying a higher price today for the cheap stuff from China that we now know was contaminated. Had we been injured, we'd have pretty much been S.O.L. because there were few or no emergency health care options. Fortunately, not knowing what we would encounter, Younger Daughter and I had gotten tetanus boosters before the first trip back.

There was little or no "fast food" because there was no one to staff the drive-through windows and deep-fryers -- in November, Burger King began offering multi-hundred-dollar signing bonuses to help with rent and $15.00 per hour jobs! Of course, those rent subsidies didn't really help that much because there weren't many inexpensive rentals available and public transportation wasn't reliable enough to allow Burger Kingies to live outside the city. You wouldn't believe what they were offering to electricians and plumbers. There was no home delivery of the daily newspaper and the Postal Service didn't resume delivery of magazines and other bulk mail until the following summer. Folks -- living under the rationing of anything is no picnic.

This was also the first time we had been able to sleep in our own bed since August 28th. We couldn't stay overnight during our first trip back -- October 1 -- because the City was still under a 6:00 p.m. curfew. Let me tell you, that was some sweet sleeping on a Friday night -- nice and dark with no streetlights! I kept listening for the *pop* of the streetcar two blocks up, but that was a sound that wouldn't return until almost 2007.

Saturday morning revealed a bleaker taste of life in post-K New Orleans. At the middle school a half-block away, a line snaked out of the schoolyard and wrapped around the building -- a Red Cross feeding station had been set up in the school for those who couldn't use their kitchens. Another had been set up a mile or so away, in the Jewish community center right on the grand St. Charles Avenue. Who knows how many others there were. People arrived at the stations in clunkers, in Mercedes, on foot, and on bikes. Wow. That's when the magnitude of the need hit me. It still gives me the chills.

There was no children's laughter ringing through the afternoon sky. There were no birds to sweeten the air with birdsong. The sunlight was blinding because the battered trees were denuded of leaves. There were no lizards to scurry across the sidewalk -- no lizards in New Orleans!

But, we could have a cocktail on the front porch -- so we did. That's when we saw Sergio, a neighbor we had really worried about because he and Sarah didn't own a car and, on the Saturday evening before the Storm, they were having trouble deciding whether to evacuate with a friend. The problem? The friend wasn't sure he would be able to take their parrot and they didn't want to leave him behind. Seeing Sergio strolling down the street was such a relief -- as was learning that the friend had relented and LaFitte had been able to accompany them on their post-K adventures.

So, relief could be grasped, even amid the shortages, the hunger, and the uncertainty. And there could be cocktails on the front porch. Nice to know.

Yep, the ol' gal looked pretty spiffy when we left. I hope we don't have to abandon her again this year -- that makes the ghost very unhappy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

Couldn't resist. **smirk**

Da Mobsters, Up Close and Personal

Oh, this is just too good.

Photographic documentation of The Mob at work against our government.

I think I know some of those guys! Oh, wait. I am one of those guys.

(Thanks, Dana.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This is a busy blogging day!

I just had to post Michelle Malkin's bumper sticker. It came to life after Congressman Vic Snyder (D-AR) got sneaky.

Apparently, according to my sources, there were conflicting reports about the date, time, and location of his "public" health care Town Hall meeting. It turns out that the meeting was moved at the last minute to Arkansas Children's Hospital. The last press release announced that the meeting would be open to the public (an hour earlier than previously announced), but requested that no protesters appear so that the little sick children and their anxious families wouldn't be frightened.

I used to count Vic among my friends. This man is not only a Congressman, he's also a father, doctor, and Vietnam vet. And, obviously, he has now become a coward of the ultimate magnitude.

Breaking News in the Dollar Bill Trial!

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! On 11 counts, including the RICO count. Not Guilty on 5.

That beat the over/under! I guess I'll need to replace the "Dollar Bill" pic with a former-Congressman-in-an-orange-jumpsuit mug shot. Where do they get the gall?!?!

Details to follow.

Tyson's Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Okay, so my daughter is browbeating me.

This is Tyson, one of my granddogs. (Yeah -- the boxer is named "Tyson." My daughter vows that her significant other will have to explain to their pup why he was named after a sociopathic, ear-ripping rapist).
Apparently this adorable photo of him has been entered in a newspaper contest with the caption, "Being cute is so tiring!" (I have to admit, it is a cute photo.)

So, if you'd like to cast a vote for the precious pup, go here, register, and click on "save vote."

There. Are you satisfied, Elder Daughter?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Future Lives in a Virgin Forest

This past weekend I saw my future and it looks like this. And this!

We went to walk the Ouachita property on Saturday with Bouie (who had a ball running and jumping and splashing in the pretty-darn-full "dry" creek bed!). We were trying to orient the site for the house. It's a good thing we were able to see the property after a heavy rain, because now we know that there are TWO creeks after a rain, and we'll have to culvert the driveway. Cha-ching -- and the dollar signs start multiplying! Hopefully, we can get the surveyor out there soon and break ground before costs get too far ahead of us.

We discovered the little multi-legged guys later, already attached to various parts of our anatomies. And now I'm all creepy crawly!

I guess I've lived in the city too long. At least I didn't spy anything that slithered. **shiver**