Friday, February 15, 2008

NOLA pangs

Mayor Nagin gets caught playing cops and robbers with real life guns. Apparently, this photo has gone forth into the national press to make New Orleans look (even more) foolish:

(yat pundit comments on this blog that the Times Picayune has apologized for the photo and says it was a snapshot that did not accurately reflect what happened; I wasn't clear about this, but I was less concerned about what Nagin was doing than I was about the suggestion, in the mayor's letter to the T.P., that the photo has already gone out to media outlets nationwide...thanks, y.p.!)

Meanwhile, the city continues to prostitute itself (and I use that term most deliberately). The NBA rents Jackson Square for the evening, for the price of $5000. Meanwhile, locals as well as Jackson's Square's usual cadre of vendors, street artists, tarot card readers, and fortune tellers have to leave the area. Did I mention it was just $5000? From the NBA? For their private, all-access pass to New Orleans' preeminent public space?

As part of a four-day basketball showcase expected to produce major economic benefits for the city, the "2008 Celebration of Contribution" party is expected to draw a cadre of famous customers to merchants' shops along Jackson Square. But musicians, artists and tarot card readers who peddle their services on the square's slate-lined streets are crying foul, saying the party is leaving them on the sidelines during a potentially huge payday.

As crews got to work early Thursday setting up barricades along Decatur Street at St. Peter and St. Ann streets, dozens of entertainers found themselves ejected from park benches and removed from areas along the wrought-iron fences that typically
serve as art-for-sale galleries....

Sahuc said he objects in principle to City Hall renting out the area. Heavy equipment used in staging the party will damage the area's infrastructure, he said, and the event perverts the sanctity of the area formerly known as "Public Square."

"The city has been pimping the square, and we get nothing for it," Sahuc said. more

They are raising money for rebuilding projects, but even so, couldn't they - the "famous customers" of whom da Paper speaks - have held their party indoors, at one of the area's many convention halls rather than dragging heavy stages into Jackson Square and throwing artists, already struggling since Katrina, out of work for the duration?

Meanwhile, prepare for Katrina, the Opera:

The opera focuses on two primary stories, each centering on a pair of characters and their experiences through the flood. The first tale of Miss Leah and the Debris Man depicts the scary and inventive ways people survived in the days immediately after the levee breaks.

"Debris Man becomes a shaman-like character, " Weigel said. "He knows how to survive on the street already and helps his neighbors."

Debris Man will be played by Cook himself, who saw the good that came out of people in his neighborhood because of the tragedy.

"There was an embracing of people, " Sylvester noted. "We haven't seen that in this country in a long time."

"Heroes became villains but villains became heroes, " Weigel said. "The drug dealers and pimps were keeping watch over the neighborhood and helping the old people there. When the guns and the cameras came out, so did the old stereotypes. Then they were pegged as thugs and looters."

I can't decide whether to be intrigued or afraid. Maybe I'll go check it out tomorrow night.

Oh, for god's sake, here's a "crying moment" I'd love to see the media tear apart (much more worthy of criticism than Hillary's little serious moment):

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency hates to get "sappy" in front of cameras, but he wants storm victims to know he's sorry that so many are still living in government-issued trailers more than two years after Hurricane Katrina hit.

FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison said Thursday that the agency will rush to relocate roughly 35,000 families after government tests found dangerous levels of formaldehyde fumes in many occupied FEMA trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi....

Critics have faulted FEMA for not responding sooner to concerns that its trailers could be jeopardizing the health of occupants.

During an interview after Thursday's briefing, Paulison defended the agency's response to formaldehyde concerns. But he admitted he could have done a better
job of expressing sympathy for storm victims who have spent more than two years
in the cramped trailers.

"I didn't want to get sappy out there in front of the cameras," Paulison told The Associated Press, "but the truth is that we really do care and we really are working hard to take care of the people's needs and get them out of these travel trailers and mobile homes."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fumes from 519 tested trailers and mobile homes in Louisiana and Mississippi were, on average, about five times what people are exposed to in most modern homes. Formaldehyde, a preservative commonly used in construction materials, can lead to breathing problems and is also believed to cause cancer.

The findings stirred worry and anger across the Gulf Coast, where FEMA is already a dirty word and housing has been scarce since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.

"Am I angry at FEMA? Of course I am. They should have started moving people out of these trailers once they first started finding problems," said Lynette Hooks, 48. She said that since she began living in her trailer outside her damaged New Orleans home in October 2006, she has suffered headaches and sinus problems, in addition to the asthma she had before...

As early as 2006, trailer occupants began reporting headaches, nosebleeds and difficulty breathing.

But as recently as last spring, a FEMA spokesman said the agency saw no reason to question the safety of its trailers. Just last month, congressional investigators accused FEMA of suppressing and manipulating scientific research to play down the danger — an accusation the agency denied. more

I'm amazed that this hasn't been a bigger topic of discussion in public health since before Katrina. For years, I've known that I have itchiness, allergies, and breathing difficulties after being in stores that sell clothing. I've also known for several years that I become ill in new buildings - the brand new movie theater made me sick every time I visited it when I lived in WA State, and the new law library at Gonzaga left me too red-eyed, itchy, and breathless to study. I researched the topic and quickly found that formaldehyde and other chemicals used in the wood and carpet of new buildings as well as on new clothes is an irritant. I find it so hard to understand how the federal government didn't know anything about this general public health issue until Katrina. I also wonder what chemicals might still be affecting my health here in this ten year old mobile home. Dog knows I'm tired all the time. Maybe it's that, maybe something else.

Notice also that Paulison says he "could have done a better job expressing sympathy." Yes, because it's not about action down here, just perception, yes indeed.


YatPundit said...

you do know that Da Paper published a front-page correction on the Nagin photo, right? Perhaps you could mention that this was the paper's stupidity and not hizzoner's. He does enough of Teh Stoopit on his own that he doesn't need to claim credit for Da Paper's.

NOLA radfem said...

Thanks, yatpundit. You said it. The paper printed a correction, which is why I didn't include the photo. My concern was that the photo had, according to the mayor's letter, already travelled out across the country via mainsteam media outlets, and that that had already done some damage.

Leigh C. said...

Perhaps they rented out Jackson Square 'cause of its appearance as a private party location in the "K-Ville" pilot. Either way, I find myself a little happy that it's raining out right now. ;-)

NOLA radfem said...

Ha, good point, Leigh C. Let it rain! I wonder if they still pay if the party gets rained out. Hmm...