Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paper rain, Paper rain...St. Bernard and 9th Ward STILL "Bastards of the Party"

This draft's been sitting for nearly a month now. Responding to his comment on my 4/30 post, I told Clifton over at Cliff's Crib, "I read how they used newspaper as fill in the levee repair in the 9th Ward – I plan to blog on that today because I need a damn break from this election game!" Well, I did take a break, but as that pesky thing called Life just kept happening, I took a break from all of it - not just the elections. But I'm back now. And after a little catching up, I'll keep moving forward.

The picture above was taken of me standing next to a "repaired" portion of the levee in the Lower 9th Ward during my 2006 volunteer trip to New Orleans. I remember saying to the person taking the picture, "Shit! This is only about twice my height! How much water will this hold back?" Seems that was only one of a couple, more important considerations about which I should have been asking. At least that's what my usual FeedBlitz email update from thinknola.com. said on April 29th. In that update, Alan Gutierrez posted one new article: "Truth Stranger Than Fiction: Army Corps of Engineers Building Levees out of Newspaper." What??!! He was talking about expansion joints - those dark, vertical lines neatly spaced across the floodwall in the photo above (don't some of them look wet?). Who knew?

After reading the post, the comments and following all the links (this April 24th link from a local television station, "4 Investigates: Floodwalls stuffed with newspaper?" had a pretty interesting video showing the actual newspaper, dated May 21, 2006, being pulled from an expansion joint), I just sat back and said, "What the hell else???" It didn't take long for me to get an answer. Two days later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) scrambled to publicly defend the "leak" (pun definitely intended) in this April 26th article in the Times-Picayune, "Corps explains newspaper's use in floodwall."

Okay, never mind the Corps used unlicensed contractors and paid them a huge chunk of taxpayers' money to do half-assed work. And never mind the Corps said there were only three gaps in which this newspaper-stuffing "repair technique" occurred - I just have to ask, "AND THAT'S OKAY??"

Really now, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in St. Bernard (thanks to MR-GO) and devastated the 9th Ward and it's really okay the three gaps were only in these areas? Jesus!!! Along with impeaching George Bush and indicting every damned member of his administration, can somebody revoke that immunity from prosecution USACE so enjoys so they can feel just a smidgen of the pain and discomfort New Orleanians are still experiencing? Okay I'll admit it -I grew up liking the "The Avengers!"

But as my grandmother used to say when I'd ask her if things would ever change, she'd say, "Yeah, if you sit dey long enuf, it sho' will" (she meant it could get worse if we do nothing). So can enough of us at least get up off our asses and demand that 8/29 investigation? I mean dammit!!

And just as I sat there long enough, here came something else. Hindsight is surely 20-20 isn't it? My earlier question about how much water this will hold back is haunting at best, particularly given this article: "Katrina-Battered New Orleans Levee Leaking." In my February 9th post, I said, "...picture this: You're 6ft. tall standing in a 2ft. hole of mulch. A 6ft. wall of water hits you. Where the hell would you end up? By the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' own admission, areas where the levees broke could not even have withstood storm surges of six feet, forget what Hurricane Katrina threw at them!" Now - more wet spots!

Given the fact outside experts stated in the article, "...the type of seepage spotted at the 17th Street Canal in the Lakeview neighborhood afflicts other New Orleans levees, too, and could cause some of them to collapse during a storm..." isn't it obvious that St. Bernard and the 9th Ward continue to be the pretty much neglected "Bastards of the Party" (you should really check out that documentary!)? USACE, FEMA and a lot of Americans have all just thrown them a bone, still not realizing that the state of their safety remains just as, or even more relevant today as on the day Katrina landed.

If the federal government doesn't own that fact and do something way more significant besides throwing good money after bad - we'll all be holding our collective breaths during this, and every hurricane season from here on out.

I chose not to expound on any of these stories because I'd really prefer you click on the links, read the articles and watch the video for yourselves. After you do all of that, come back and tell me - "it's all good." If you do, idealistic me will know exactly, the kind of "stuff" of which we Americans are made.

6 comments:

The First Domino said...

Welcome back, Deb.

I wouldn't recognize you, but I'd recognize that wall anywhere! *smile*

On a serious note: although I'm not a civil engineer, the idea of using newspapers to fill joints in levees seems ludicrous on the surface.

I read the associated articles. What's going with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? Are they getting kickbacks or sumptin'?

This is an important topic and a serious malfeasance on the part of those entrusted to maintain and repair the levees.

Why am I not seeing more about this in the MSM?

Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'll do my part to pass the word.

Spike Lee's documentary on the aftermath of Katrina brought to light some serious missteps by public officials.

Talking to the locals about their experience before and after the hurricane made Lee's film compelling in its scope, and in its heart-wrenching accounts of tragedies that kept right on coming as a result of our government's slow, very slow, response.

And thanks for caring enough to volunteer on behalf New Orleans' poorest.

Namaste

Deb said...

the first domino...Thanks! Yeah I hate taking picures anyway! :-) I just wanted people to get some perspective on the size of that wall (not trying to pry, but since you recognize the wall, been to NOLA often?).

"What's going with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? Are they getting kickbacks or sumptin'?"

While I'm sure, when an unlicensed contractor gets the bid over those who are licensed, there's no doubt kickbacks are involved - nobody's put that out there to my knowledge. But, let's be real, immunity from prosecution for any and all malfeasance regarding the failure and continued poor-to-no maintenace of the levees is kick-back-in-plain-sight for sure!

"Why am I not seeing more about this in the MSM?

You're right. It is an important topic and at the risk of sounding like Kanye West - the MSM doesn't care about Black people, unless of course, they fit the mirror-image of themselves they've fashioned for us.

Here's an interesting post by Harry Shearer on the Huffington Post today: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harry-shearer/the-new-orleans-recovery_b_103425.html

He's from NOLA and is one of the few, if only, posters that ever talks about the city. Levees.org is another great site for up-to-date information on what is and is not being done.

I'm not from there, but I love that city. Each time I've been there, before and after Katrina, it's felt like home to me. Thanks for passing the word.

"Spike Lee's documentary on the aftermath of Katrina brought to light some serious missteps by public officials.

It was Spike's documentary that moved me to volunteer in NOLA - first with Habitat, to gut houses in September and then again in October to work on a rebuilding project of an elderly couple's home with another group. The couple and I still keep in touch and I plan to visit them next month as a matter of fact!

"And thanks for caring enough to volunteer on behalf New Orleans' poorest.

No thanks necessary though I appreciate your acknowledgement. Back-slider that I am, I truly believe, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." It was my awesome privilege and most fulfilling pleasure to have gone.

Whenever I think about it, it just makes me feel so full! All I had to offer were my hands, my will and my heart and that was more than enough for all the people I met there! I have more photos at the "My NOLA Experiences" link in the sidebar if your interested. Just click Photo Albums once there. Great talking to you again.

Namaste

The First Domino said...

You're special lady!

I'm glad that I know you. I was tempted to say know about you, and/or know of you, which may be more accurate, but it wouldn't express what I'm feeling.

Let me repeat: I'm glad that I know you.

You said: "Back-slider that I am..."

The church may look down upon you, but I'll bet you a mess of fried catfish that God holds you in high esteem.

I will check the Huffington Post, and the links on your sidebar.

Thanks.

Namaste

Deb said...

the first domino...
"You're special lady!"

Again, thanks for your acknowledgement and listening to my "heart-speak." I am what I am, and after years of trepidation and uncerainty, that much I know is true. Some people get it, most people don't - but I've come to realize that I can't be responsible for that.

"I'm glad that I know you. I was tempted to say know about you, and/or know of you, which may be more accurate, but it wouldn't express what I'm feeling.

I remember you once telling me in another comment, "Deb, I know you through your writings only..." What's changed? I'd be interested in knowing. My writing is, and always has been all I have to share a little of myself with others who've never met me. Have I been successful in putting more of me in the words I put on the page? If I have, I'm getting better. And that's a good thing. As I've told you before, I want to be a better writer and in the process, not lose "me." Your critique is definitely invaluable and appreciated in that regard (particularly because we've never met).

You said: "Back-slider that I am..."
The church may look down upon you, but I'll bet you a mess of fried catfish that God holds you in high esteem.


I agree with you, she's looking down and saying, "Well done my good and faithful servant." I guarantee the "church" probably does have that view of me, but rest assured, it is mutual and I'm not pressed to have their approval. However, as to the bet? I'm not eating catfish unless it's sneaked upon me!" That DID happen when I was in the Navy. Went to the Chow Hall and ate some meaty, finger-lickin' fried fish that I loved - until that is, they told me it was catfish. Never ate it again, something about that scavenger thing - never mind I love shrimp, crabs and suckin the heads off crawfish!!! Go figure.

Thanks so much for your reading me, offering your honest opinions and sharing yours.

Namaste

The First Domino said...

@Deb: "Have I been successful in putting more of me in the words I put on the page?"

Deb, your writing has always been superb. I've never bothered that often to counter your self-appraisal but, believe me, your writing is clear, honest, and precise.

Yet, I can only get a limited view of another from their written word or, for that matter, their spoken word. A person's real character comes through, not from what he or she says, but from what he or she does or has done.

You know the old saw: Actions speak louder than words.

Well, a person's actions are so many windows into their soul. Tell me what you're doing, and I can tell you who you are. You see, actions are testaments to the state of the soul.

Of course, in this, as in all things, deception is possible.

@Deb: "As I've told you before, I want to be a better writer and in the process, not lose "me."

You have arrived. And, I suspect, you were closer to your goal than you know. Trust me: if you improve more, it will simply be metaphorical icing on the cake.

@Deb:My writing is, and always has been all I have to share a little of myself with others who've never met me.

Words are simply words. But to the degree that they tell me about your deeds, to that degree do I really get to know you. So, "Ye shall know them by their fruits," if I can borrow a passage from the Bible, and not by their words.

So, by your words, I get to know you in one way. And by your deeds, another. Let's say that my view of you now is holographic--in the round--and not one-dimensional.

What a photographic journey through the 9th ward! Initially, your accommodations were Spartan at best, and would have been enough to discourage many.

The work seemed backbreaking and undertaken in the midst of what seemed to be some rather harsh conditions. I'm impressed with a compassion that became more than words, but dedicated hard work.

I'm impressed with the love that became a physical expression of an inner desire to help. You, and the many others like you, who sacrificed real blood, sweat and tears, to make a difference for others, are my heroes.

Namaste

Deb said...

the first domino...I'd fallen asleep watching the tube and woke up about 30 minutes ago. I realized I'd left the laptop on - that blue light, like the CBS "eye," is always an instant reminder! :-) And there you were, replying!

"A person's real character comes through, not from what he or she says, but from what he or she does or has done."

Man! Haven't I told my sons this over and over again?! It's so very true, "It's not what you say, it's what you do." - something my mother taught me by her "acts." Her 77th birthday would have been May 17. For her funeral, the opening hymn I chose after the Processional was, "May The Work I've Done, Speak For Me." It was appropriate for the life she lived - never ever, seeking "credit" or approval - just doing. I am, because she was.

"Well, a person's actions are so many windows into their soul."

And it is in fact, my soul that you (who've never even met me), have ferreted out!

"Of course, in this, as in all things, deception is possible.

True, particularly when one only considers surface acts.

"You have arrived. And, I suspect, you were closer to your goal than you know. Trust me: if you improve more, it will simply be metaphorical icing on the cake."

Thanks.

"What a photographic journey through the 9th ward! Initially, your accommodations were Spartan at best, and would have been enough to discourage many."

So you saw the pictures. Thanks for taking the time. Spartan? Yes! Worthy of the "300" at times, but of no real consequence given the situation of those for whom I went. I don't think I've ever slept better before (except for Boot Camp), and certainly not since (as insomnia, particularly these days, is my constant companion)!

"The work seemed backbreaking and undertaken in the midst of what seemed to be some rather harsh conditions. I'm impressed with a compassion that became more than words, but dedicated hard work."

Backbreaking and harsh conditions were initially my 50 year-old fear, but as it turned out, I could handle and came to enjoy it. And yes, I wanted, above all else for my compassion to be more than words.

"I'm impressed with the love that became a physical expression of an inner desire to help. You, and the many others like you, who sacrificed real blood, sweat and tears, to make a difference for others, are my heroes."

Again my dear friend, it was no sacrifice - just my privilege. I gave as good as I got, believe me!!

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