Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Random Song Reference

Ohio - by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Wednesday is Haiku Day!

Pinkeye is gone now
but little boy has hollow
cough - hurts just to hear.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Advocacy

I was lawyer again today. I played the prosecution while Red Hot Mamma played defense. The witness was hers, and I got the cross. I had a pretty small role today; raise objections - which I missed a couple leadings and a hearsay, as well as a reading...

While I was doing my cross, my wife called and told me I needed to get the daughter. It turned out that she was able to pick up the girl, but since the daughter was not feeling well, I left early (with permission) and got the girl from daycare so she could lay down at home and get some rest - we had a little fever run through us last week, and I think she's still feeling a bit of that.

Anyway, it's giving me a chance to finish up reading on NAFTA, where I still have about 20 pages to read.

I like NAFTA, it's interesting, and the setup is not that bad.

You see, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade carved out concepts for trade agreements - Trade Unions (such as the EU) and Free Trade Agreements (e.g. NAFTA). There are plusses to both, but frankly, it sounds like Free Trade agreements might actually be a little better... First off, you can leave a FTA, you can't leave the EU.

The United States, as a general rule, likes Free Trade Agreements - each of the last three Presidents (both Bushes and Clinton) supported Free Trade Agreements. It's going to be interesting to go through this.

Back to work.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Symbol of Our Country

Apparently, the Luddite movement is catching on with our Nation's fowl. A suicide attack by a bald eagle carrying a deer head left some 10,000 Juneauans without power. The kamikaze run was less successful than the subverter would otherwise have hoped, though - the city didn't even lose power for 45 minutes.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Atlatl starfruit

I can't remember the name of the game, but I think I first saw it on Particleman's blog a couple years ago (maybe Google Smack, or something?). Anyway, the point of the game is to take two random words, run a google (or Yahoo) search, and try to find a combination that has only one site come up on search result.

The above combination was the one I used, which probably won't work anymore, since the combination is now on my blog, but if you find yourself in need of something to occupy your time and you can't leave your desk...

Interesting

You Are Sunset

Even though you still may be young, you already feel like you've accomplished a lot in life.
And you feel free to pave your own path now, and you're not even sure where it will take you.
Maybe you'll pursue higher education in a subject you enjoy - or travel the world for a few years.
Either way, you approach life with a relaxed, open attitude. And that will take you far!

And the Protests come

The right of the people to gather and petition the government for a redress of their grievances is one of the rights endowed in the First Amendment.

But that does not mean that you have to listen to Hanoi Jane - who probably is more harmful to the anti-war crowd than she is helpful.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Grandpa's Little Helper

Bad news for all those devotees of Bob Dole and Mike Ditka: Medicare will no longer cover prescriptions for Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, except as treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension (a lung ailment) or other such ailments.

The move is calculated to help save money for Medicare.

It also is calculated to ensure elderly men don't fall on hard times.

The Surge

I disagree with the surge.

As I've mentioned before, I don't think it's going to be effective - that the president insists that it will work with an extra 21,500 when that's just about how many we could afford to increase the troop load by seems a bit too coincidental.

But, I believe that the President has this authority under his duties as Commander-in-Chief. I think Congress is wrong to try to strip funding for a part of the war - trying to use the pursestrings to execute Commander-in-Chief duties. I see this as an unconstitutional act on the part of Congress, and one that does not jive with Congress' joint resolution authorizing the invasion (I mean "liberation"). I think that Congress has the authority, after the two year period for which they've authorized funds to raise an army have expired, they have the option of no longer funding the war, period, or they can renew funding. I see the threat of not funding one portion of the president's strategy to be an unconstitutional foray into executive powers.

I'm not alone in this thinking - in this op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, a writer has said somewhat better what I tried to say above. Though I do not agree with everything in the article, I think he is right on point with this premise.

The law in this area is unclear, which is why there is debate as to whether or not Congress can do this, but I think a challenge that went to the Court would rule against Congress' actions, and in the interim, many of our soldiers would be in greater harm than they already are by the President's string of bad decisions.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Bar Exam Cometh

I graduate in May, which means I will be able to sit for the July Bar Exam.

Before I started law school, I applied to many, many jobs with my Excelsior College degree. It didn't work out well. My degree, essentially, is in Contemporary Korean Culture, which means that I got a bachelor's degree that qualified me to work at McDonald's in Seoul (rimshot). The degree essentially was the bachelor's equivalent of a transfer degree - it was good enough to get me into law school, but not really good enough to equate to many job opportunities. The degree is probably more helpful to those who already have a job and need a degree to get a raise or a promotion than it is for job hunters (from my experience).

One of the jobs I did get invited to was a job as a life insurance salesman, one where they wanted you to pay them several hundred dollars and then they'd train you to work for them on commission. I declined the job, because I am hesitant to pay someone for the pleasure of working for them.

Now, I'm in the process of applying for the Texas State Bar. The application is $300. I have to pass the Bar in order to practice law in Texas. The application is $300, and then I get the pleasure of working as a lawyer in Texas...

It dawned on me today.

Eye-yi-yi

The little boy has pinkeye. This is the second time he's gotten pinkeye since I've been in law school. Today was a fortunate day, because I have no classes until 7:45, which means I could stay home with him while his mom is at work.

It's just pinkeye, so it should clear up pretty quickly. And who knows? Perhaps this is a good omen for the semester... last time the kids brought us pinkeye, I had my best semester in school, so maybe I can repeat my past success...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One Small Step for the Binjo Ditch Dweller

I had Criminal Trial Advocacy today. We had four problems in class, which dealt with examining witnesses and entering in evidence.

I have no prior experience with this whatsoever. So naturally, I got to go first.

Couple things I learned today that I would have liked to have known before I did this:
In Texas, you remain seated when questioning a witness.
You want to ask open-ended questions on Direct Examination and Leading questions on Cross.
You stand when you address the Court.
You ask permission to do everything when you are a baby lawyer, because the court will like you better.
When you are done with your questions, in Texas, you "Pass the witness for cross examination/redirect" or you "have no further questions AT THIS TIME"
You make sure you ask for the evidence you wish to present to the witness to be entered as evidence, and you make sure you bring a copy for the opposing counsel and the Court to view (they're going to want to see it and it's their right to do so, so you're just saving time).
After something is marked as evidence, you refer to it as "the item identified as state/defense exhibit Number __."
and mainly - I had no idea what I was going to say, and I had my questions in front of me.
But I got through it, and I feel better now than I did this morning - especially about what I'm going to have to do to get ready for class in the future.

NAFTA is next. I like this one.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Quotes that matter

"That's George Washington. The interesting thing about him is that I read three or four books about him last year. Isn't that interesting?"

George W. Bush, to a German reporter looking at a picture of our first president.

The Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans, January 2007

To compare to the "uninhabitability" of the Lafitte projects in the previous post.






UPDATE:

According to this Yahoo! article, Mardi Gras this year is "Close to Normal." Fortunately, the parade routes do not cover this area of New Orleans, so revelers get to enjoy New Orleans resurrection absent the very real fact that the city is still very much hurt.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lafitte Housing Projects, New Orleans


"The city's public housing agency plans to ask a judge to bar anyone from entering projects without permission and will file claims against some who are trying to averts the buildings' demolition." Full article here. I recommend reading it all, and then taking what the housing authority of New Orleans (HANO) says and comparing it to what you see. For additional information, you can click on this link, and view the documentary we all watched at orientation.
You see, these projects buildings are condemned due to flood damage from Hurricane Katrina, despite the fact that the received little water and felt little real damage.

The pictures below were taken by myself when I was in New Orleans a couple weeks ago.


You can see the water line for the high water mark on the projects right at the top step.

The "heavily damaged" projects, you can see the metal boarding the windows.


Boarded-up doors. So much damage.


Thanks to my wife for showing me how to do these picture things. Technology ain't my friend.

Preteen reading

When I was 8, I joined the cub scouts, and received a subscription to Boys' Life magazine. In the magazine were various comics. The one that caught my eye was The City of Gold and Lead, which happened to be a comic version of a book written by John Christopher.

The Boy got the City of Gold and Lead (the middle book) and the other two books of the trilogy (The White Mountains and The Pool of Fire) for Christmas this year. He's 8 now, and the same age I was when I started reading. The books are probably a little too difficult for him to understand yet, and he's not really shown an interest in reading them yet. I, on the other hand, read the White Mountains in a day a couple weeks ago, and have my eye set on re-reading the City of Gold and Lead here shortly (when I'm not reading for class).

These are rather good books written in the 1960s. Science Fiction in a manner that is very approachable for children. I highly recommend these books for anyone who has pre-teens or teenagers who have an interest in Science Fiction - good stories.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Most Children Left Behind

Texas Governor Rick Perry supports education. We know this because he is an advocate for vouchers. Recently he was quoted as saying, "I still think it's a sad day in Texas when you tell a kid who lives in an urban, inner city district because his parents are poor and don't have an alternative he's got to go to a mediocre school at best..."

I agree with him, I think it's a sad day as well. But that's where the agreement ends. You see, Gov. Perry made this statement in support of vouchers. I don't support vouchers. I think that government funds could be better spent than on a voucher program that only supports a small fraction of all those in the environment. Governor Perry apparently expects us to believe that all these students in the "mediocre school[s]" will be able to get the vouchers and thus qualify to go to the superior private schools. This of course, is fallacy. Private schools still have the choice of who to accept into their program, which means that they can deny access to those students who Rick Perry thinks it's a sad day to deny an alternative to. Additionally, the program only has so many vouchers. If there are 5000 students in a high school that is "mediocre at best," how many of them would get a voucher to go get a better education? Then do we tell the other students that they have to get their mediocre education because they were too slow off the blocks?

Additionally, what message does Governor Perry's statement send to the schools? He has now said that he has little to no faith in their ability to provide a quality education, which is going to work wonders on the teachers' motivation, I'm sure. While someone will invariably argue that the teachers are professionals and they need to act as though they had not been slighted, we know that criticism acts to harm production. Perhaps instead of pushing vouchers for a few students to help them achieve more, Perry should be pushing increased funding for better educational materials for the schools that already show a need for assistance.

Does moving schools equal receiving a higher education? What about the home environment, or the neighborhood? Don't those play a part in the education a child receives? Perhaps a solution would be neighborhood vouchers, or parenting vouchers - how would the community have reacted had Perry said "I think it's a sad day in Texas when you tell a kid who lives in an urban, inner city district that because his parents are poor and irresponsible you have to suffer a less effective education?" Perhaps there is a stronger argument for taking these children from their less effective households and putting them in middle class, mother stays at home, kid doesn't have to worry about watching siblings or ducking gangs en route to school and home and seeing the positive effect that plays on the child's education. Very few people would support that, and rightfully so. The better solution, it seems, would be to try to help the family cope better. And that should transfer over to the schools - help those that need the help by increased funding, not cutting funding and expecting more.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Random Trivia

The central Character in Cheers was Norm.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Second day of classes

I LOVE NATIONAL SECURITY LAW

This is the class I've been looking for all throughout law school.

Which means you get to be pestered by me displaying what we cover in class. Congratulations.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Final Countdown

Today is the day I begin my last semester of law school. I will be attending two classes today - Criminal Trial Advocacy and NAFTA.

Criminal Trial Advocacy is a bit of a leap for me. I'm going to law school, but I'm not a litigator by nature. I am most comfortable in a research/transactional type role. But I attend the Advocacy school. It seems odd, to me, to go to a school known for advocacy and not take one advocacy-related class. In addition, the class will help with public speaking, interviewing techniques, and will probably help me feel a little more comfortable in my lawyer skin.

NAFTA is a class I'm looking forward to. I spent the week in New Orleans with the professor of that class, and she's someone I can learn from. Good People.

Anyway, I'm somewhat nervous today, which is interesting to me, in that I have had several first days now in law school. I should know what to expect, yet I'm anxious. I think it's because I know I'm coming up to the bend, and while the road is now familiar, there are unknowns around the corner that I can't help but come upon shortly.

there are a lot of things going on in my head right now, but I've got to shut the voices up and go help the kids get ready for school.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hopeful Pessimism

If asked, I would say that I hope President Bush's plan succeeds, for the sake of our soldiers and our nation's standing in the international arena, but I'm skeptical.

However, my criticism does not go to the plan itself per se, but rather to the architect of the plan. He was given advice from independent sources, which he straight out ignored. He then devised his own plan, using what many experts (including, I'm certain, the ones he consulted when making the decision) have suggested is the absolute most we can afford to send over, with the story that this is all that will be necessary to secure Baghdad. He says that mistakes were made and they were his, yet he does not consider alternative suggestions, at least, not seriously. He then invites people to suggest other alternatives and proceeds to act as the judge of the suggestions, deeming all of them to be insufficient. If he admittedly has been unable to secure the country we invaded for reason he admits were mistaken (if not outright lies), then why the reluctance to listen to ANYONE else?

The conclusion I can come up with is that he wants this to be his defining success so badly (see: the Mission Accomplished speech) that he is unwilling to let the perception that he needed to be "rescued" from his occupation even appear to enter the fray. He is so obsessed with his legacy that he is willing to spread our resources to a breaking point on the mere hope that these extra bodies will succeed where we've been unable to before.

He had his opportunity to be remembered as one of the greats - we needed to finish the hunt for Bin Laden and eradicate Al Qaeda. We had the majority of the world on our side (even North Korea condemned the terrorist attacks), and had AQ and the Taliban on the ropes. But we didn't. We instead took our resources and diverted them into a mistake that has turned into at best a quagmire. The president has shown an inability to successfully lead this nation's military at time of war, and for the sake of our nation, our troops, and the president himself, he needs to lick his wounds and listen to some who might know better.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Storytime

Once, long, long ago, when the Romans conquered Egypt, one of the generals saw the Nile, and recognized how helpful it would be to his empire's expansion to travel upriver and control the source, not just the product, and claim the riches found therein.

The general put together an expeditionary team, 42 men besides himself (who would be leading the team and not actually rowing), taking turns in twelve man teams, would row upriver to claim all the land. The four remaining men would relieve those who became ill or overtired from working. In addition, they hoped to recruit local Egyptians to assist the rowing teams. The teams would have to work hard, though, because the river did not yield.

So the teams packed their provisions and set off. They did not know where they were going, nor how long it would take, but they trusted their leader. They made what appeared to be good progress for the first bit of the journey, travelling up a long, peaceful stretch of river with the Roman-friendly Egyptians anxious to help them by selling supplies and other necessary items. After they got out of the heavily-populated areas, though, the Egyptians were less friendly, there was less security, animal attacks were more prevalent, and dangers that had been ignored before were now more visible to the rowers' eyes. Yet they continued to row.

Soon after, they came up to a rapids, and the teams rowed and rowed and rowed, but made little progress. The men were weary, and the locals were less than helpful; unwilling to row for their new leaders, these invaders who they did not trust or like. Those who were willing to help found the Roman way too difficult to understand, and were unable to be of any real assistance.

During this trip, the General assured the rowers that they were almost there, that the journey was nearly at an end, that the locals were supportive, and that the attacks were acts of desperation from people and animals that feared the new path their country was to take.

After months of rowing, the Roman soldiers were beginning to doubt their general's insistence that they were "almost there," and fatigue had set in. Even those who had switched out for sick and injured were exhausted. The general had heard from individuals in the area that ahead, the river forked. He knew that he had to do something to galvanize his soldiers, to keep his dream of reigning over all of the Nile from falling apart. So he gathered his troops. He told them that he had not planned everything perfectly, that mistakes had been made. He then informed the soldiers that they had to continue forward, because if they didn't, then they would have failed, and Rome cannot fail. He then told them of the fork in the river, and informed them that after consulting his maps and charts, they would be going up the right fork, and to ensure that they succeeded, he would have six reserves join the teams. This was necessary, he said, because of his poor planning, the original teams were insufficient to succeed in the task, and that by adding the reserves, they would be able to get the extra push necessary to go up the right fork of the river. He would not be rowing, however, because he needed to remain at the helm. He then invited anyone to come up with a different plan to speak up, and warned them that their different plans had better be convincing, though did not offer the use of the information at his disposal.

Over the next couple of days, several soldiers proposed plans to the general, and conversed among themselves as to which path they should take, left, right, or back downriver. The general then addressed the soldiers and told them that nobody had provided him with a viable alternative, he being the one who needed convincing, and thus they would take his plan and follow it through. He then ordered the men, including the reserves, back to work as he adjourned to his cabin.

We'll see how this story ends sometime later.

The one sight in New York City I'd actually like to visit

Slow down, you move too fast.
You've got to make the morning last!
Just kickin' down the cobblestone
Lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy

Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin'?
I've come to watch your flowers growin'.
Ain'tcha got no rhymes for me
doo do do do doo, feelin' groovy!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My conversation with my wife

My wife is mean.

I bought her a gift yesterday - the Office, Season 1, because I know how much she enjoys that program (I can't bring myself to like it, but it does make me happy to hear her laugh so hard at something that is not me).

Today, she's been picking on me all day, despite the fact that I let her sleep in 3 hours longer than I did. I have put up with the children who have been cooped up today due to wet weather and don't do well in enclosed spaces.

I got fed up a few minutes ago and exclaimed, "I bought you a gift yesterday out of the goodness of my heart - you need to be nice to me!"

She immediately retorted, "I gave you three beautiful children and look what you did with them!"

And now the little boy is running around in a diaper, ladybug boots and carrying his My Little Pony. I think I have lost this war.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Reprehensible

First they torture and say they don't and then say it's not torture and then ask what "torture" is.

Then they say that the detainees don't qualify for Geneva Convention protection under Common Article 3, for whatever flawed reason.

Then they deny the detainees habeas relief in DIRECT VIOLATION of the Constitution.

So what next? One of the administration officials wonders aloud if the lawyers representing the detainees are on the take from the enemy and suggests that corporate America should boycott these attorneys for representing the detainees pro bono.

Utterly despicable on so many levels.

First - these detainees are SUSPECTS - they have not been proven guilty of ANYTHING
Second - We PRESUME them to be INNOCENT be they American or non-American.
Third - EVERYONE is entitled to competent counsel, and it sickens me that this administration is so strung up on keeping these detainees' voices quiet that they would actually have the audacity to threaten attorneys who would ensure a fair trial for all those who not only are detained and guilty but for the uncertain number who are detained and not guilty of anything but being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Fourth - If this is done in the name of security - where does one stop? If it's OK to use these strongarm tactics against foreigners, why not against citizens? This type of language is wrong and it goes against everything I understood our nation's foundation to be about.

Read what Alexander Melonas, one of the many great posters at the Gun Toting Liberal has to say here.

Additionally, David Schraub at The Moderate Voice has a quick take on this as well, here.

Under what should be the "duh" category...

The New Jersey state attorney general said that clergy would not be required to unite gay couples in civil unions, and according to this article, the decision quells fears of some religious groups.

One of the things I'd understood was that the government really can't compel a religion to act in a particular manner - the whole separation of church and state concept that serves as the foundation of our way of life. It's the concept that bars proselytizing in schools, prevents people from "bringing God back into the classroom," and from the government overtly endorsing one religion at the expense of others.

That we are a society that tries to keep one church from running roughshod over the others politically necessarily means that we are one where the government must remain as neutral as possible in matters respecting religion. This seems to me to mean that it's only common sense that the state of New Jersey would be unable to force clergy to perform civil unions or gay marriages if it runs contrary to what the church believes. It does not mean, however, that Justices of the Peace would be required to do so - in that the conferring of the rights of marriage and civil unions is a secular concept, and in keeping with the public policy concept of promoting the general welfare.

This in essense follows one vein of the concept of Separation of Church and State, and was probably necessary to avoid a 1st amendment violation.

I'd like to say that I'm surprised this came up, but the Religious Right has played this up to such an issue that it was necessary to ease concerns.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One small thing on President Bush's Speech

He commented (forgive me for not having the proper quote) that with individuals such as Senator Joe Lieberman and other members of Congress, they would form a bipartisan panel. Interesting note - Sen. Lieberman has an (I) next to his name, not a (D). By definition, the President has stated that there will be a bipartisan panel consisting of either one or both independents and, presumably, republicans - again ignoring the Democrat majority...

I'm sure that's not what he meant, but one can't deny that that's what he said.

Ever so slightly

I scored just over Colin Powell here. Basically middle of the road, slightly right. How about you?

Graduation

Well, I passed all my classes, and managed to do better than my GPA for the second straight semester - interesting that the less I care about how well I do, the better I actually do, but I digress.

I've got a mere 129 days until graduation, which means that you all have a mere 129 days to find me a graduation gift. This is actually not a bad thing, because I know what you can get me. One gift, not too big, that you can all pool your money on. I've had my eye on a new Cadillac CTS for a while now, and after spending last week riding in one, I must say I'm convinced. This is the car for me. It's got what I need and want. First, it's American-made. Second, it's bigger than my Escort, but not too big - I could fit everyone in the family in there comfortable. Third, it handles well. Fourth, it gets decent gas mileage. Finally - it's not an Escort.

I know what you are all thinking - but if we get him a Cadillac NOW, like we were planning to all along, he's not going to be surprised. Well, perhaps, but I will ACT surprised. And it's the look of satisfaction on your collective faces that the gift giving is all about, so since you'll be giving me what I REALLY want, you'll make yourselves happy, and then I'll be happy for making you happy, and it will be one happy party.

I like the black one.

Random Trivia

This one is directed at all those who I have heard state that the Church should be the source of our laws:

Potatoes were once denounced by the Church as evil because they are not mentioned in the Bible. I presume this means that all potato eaters would be damned, except the Church changed its mind, much like lawmakers have done throughout history.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Oranization

One of the most interesting things to me last week was that the group I worked with on the corners project (see my previous posts, such as here) with the Worker Center was that we were helping with the baby steps of the Organizing process. We so often hear about how bad things were, and how things have changed, but we rarely see what happens in between. For example, we know of the marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Suffrage movement, but we don't hear about how the people all got on the same page, or found the resources to petition the government, etc.. Seeing the brainstorming, the ideamaking, and the leads and seeing how they all go into developing a concrete mission was something I'd never taken into consideration. Organizing is not something that can be done on the fly. There has to be materials, plans, and time, time, time. Collette, one of the Organizers with whom we worked was so busy with the sudden influx of volunteers (the office went from about 5 to about 25 for a week, and she has another 30 this week), that she found herself too busy to even pick up propane for her trailer, meaning she had no hot water for showers and no heat for keeping warm at night. While some of the volunteers complained about having had to get up at 5 in the morning, wanting a chance to go out and get plastered at night, Collette, Saket, Marco, Elly, et al. was there when we got in and stayed there long after we left. We had the luxury of only having a week to donate - these people are fighting the fight in our presence and our absence, and for that, I am most impressed.
According to researchers, the 9th Ward of New Orleans can be rebuilt without having to level and restart as had initially been reported, according to this yahoo! article. What the article doesn't say is why, after 15 months, so many buildings and houses have not yet been repaired or demolished. It doesn't say where the families who lived in the 3000 houses in the area will live before time can be made to help them find their way back to their homes, or how they will get to work in NOLA if they are forced to pay bus fares, or if the LA Swift is shut down (probably going to privatization, from what we understand at this time).

It doesn't state when Mayor Nagin would review the report, or whether other state and/or federal agencies would view it/use it.

Finally, the report doesn't state why housing that was not flood damaged has been shut down and locked, denying citizens access to their homes/belongings/livelihood.

The report is encouraging, and if I ever figure out how to get pictures on this thing, I'll show y'all some of what we saw out there.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jiggedy Jig

We finished our placements in New Orleans on Friday and we got home early yesterday afternoon. It was a pleasurable trip. I don't want to say it was "fun," because we were busy working with and for people who were in a desparate situation, and I do mean busy. I averaged about 13 hour days this week with my busiest starting at 6:30 and ending at 11:00, with a three hour break for dinner/walking.

We got to see ALL of New Orleans, from the "tremendous progress" of rebuilding in the Garden District and the French Quarter all the way to the lower 9th, where the scene is almost unchanged from 15 months ago, to the Lafitte projects, where the housing authority barred the homes with metal shields, cut the power lines, and posting signs announcing that nobody but HANO employees and their families were authorized entry onto the land. The city apparently wants to take these projects, formerly home to (I think I was told) 1600 families, tear them down, and rebuild either middle income homes, which would house fewer people in the same land area, or use the land to build a film studio to lure in filmmakers from LA to generate more big money for the city - with no mention of where the residents would live. The Housing Authority apparently alleges that the projects sustained too much water damage from the flooding, and they need to be torn down, but, frankly, that's a load of shit. The water line didn't even extend beyond the foundation, stopping on the second to top step; the apartments themselves received no water. It's easy to see why the local population feels like they are being mistreated by their city, the city they work for to bring in the tourists who bring the money to the city.

Our team also rode the LA Swift, speaking with the bus riders, hearing stories, discussing the situation with the commuters. I was not a part of this, however. I was the navigator of the van that picked up the riders at the bus stop in Baton Rouge to bring them home. Our driver was Jeannie (sp?), and if you happen upon this Jeannie, you were terrific, driving people all over a foreign city, and then going on a cross state trip in a rented van at night to another city to which you'd never been in a state you'd never been, in a thunderstorm.

Because we stayed as busy as we did, I didn't have gobs of time to go touring the city, but I did manage to get out and get around. I never made it to Cafe Du Monde, so I have a reason to return to New Orleans, but I did get to eat at some local places (e.g. trolley stop cafe, Mulate's) and a couple "gotta eat there" places (e.g. Cafe Maspero, Acme Oyster bar). We also spent three days trying to get in to a restaurant called Bacco's, which apparently doesn't serve law students from Texas. We got there while the restaurant was still open on three separate days, but after they had stopped seating for the night. We're convinced it's a conspiracy to keep Texans hungry.

We walked all over the warehouse district, the Irish Channel, and the French Quarter. We walked down Bourbon street, which is narrower than I'd imagined, Rampart Street past Armstrong Park (I don't recommend walking that stretch at night in a pair - scary), Magazine, St. Charles, Peters, Tchoupitoulas (or however it's spelled; it's pronounced Chop uh Too liss), Decatur (past St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square), and others.

I can easily see why people fall in love with New Orleans. It has an old-world charm to it. But once you get out of the tourist section, you see that the city hasn't bounced back yet. 2000 people commute each day from Baton Rouge FEMA parks because they haven't had time to fix their homes and nobody else is working on rebuilding, and given the choice between rebuilding their homes and having a job for necessities, guess which has to lose. There were literally blocks upon blocks at the spot of the levee breach where the 9th Ward had been devastated, as if God stepped aside and let Mother Nature reclaim the land that had once been hers. I don't know that I could adequately describe the scene, the scope of it all. When you recognize that these blocks were the home to multigenerational houses, old-time neighborhoods where everybody knew you and your parents and children, and that those memories are too trivial for the city to put any motivated effort into helping the families get them back, you can't help but feel your heart break a little.

It was little different seeing how the police and contractors treated the "mexicans," the undocumented immigrants from all over Central America who were rused into coming to help rebuild New Orleans. Tracie, who was perhaps the smallest person in our group, but who had perhaps the biggest heart among us all, phrased it the best, which I'll paraphrase here - It's so disgusting to think that here in America we have a situation where people are treating other human beings as construction equipment - you go to Lowe's, pick up your 2x4s, your nails, some Caulk and dry wall, and then pick up a couple "mexicans" right outside to put it all together. We're supposed to be better than that.

So I got to see some of the best and worst that New Orleans had to offer. I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to go down and do my little part to help out. There is still A LOT to do before New Orleans can return to the city it used to be - there's currently only 45% of the pre-Katrina population in the city, and the city needs people to tell its story, and to go down to share in its renaissance, and to ensure that those who made New Orleans the city nestled in the hearts of millions of tourists are not shut out of the new vision.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The evening

Being in New Orleans, I knew I was going to have to take a trip to Bourbon Street, but I'd resolved to wait until Friday to do so.

However, this evening, we chose to walk downtown for dinner at Bacco's, which closed right before we got there, and we ended up eating at a different restaurant (whose name escapes me, but it was right near Jackson Square and starts with an "M"). Afterwards, the trio with whom I was decided they needed hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's (sp?). So we ambled down Canal Street onto Bourbon, stopping at the place to get the hurricanes. I did not have a hurricane.

I mention this because we just got back to the hotel a few minutes ago, and the Sugar Bowl (which is going on right now) is now on television. They just got back from commercial, and while doing the game/station identification, there was a screen shot of a fountain with a fire in a bowl on top - which is at Pat O'Brien's, and was situated directly behind where I had been sitting just 30 minutes earlier. That was pretty cool.

And yes, I got beads (but I gave them away to one of my classmates who collects them - the boys and girl would destroy them in less than 30 minutes, so it was an act of compassion).

A quick update

All is well for myself so far. I arrived in New Orleans with the rest of our school Monday evening; we ate at Mulate's (excellent restaurant with live Cajun music and dancing - even had parents with their children - stop by), and we got to work the next morning.

I've been placed with the New Orleans Worker's Center for Racial Justice with about 20 other students from across the country. My official job in the morning is Legal Observer - a quick overview. After Katrina hit, several "headhunters" went to various places across the country and in latin America promising reconstruction jobs to individuals willing to relocate to New Orleans temporarily. These individuals experienced all kinds of problems - many ended up arriving to find no work. These are the people with whom I've been assigned to observe. Others have been placed at jobs being paid far less than the market rate for the industry while the local black population is told that these immigrants are "taking" their jobs for less money. in other words, the work force is being pitted against themselves in an attempt to acquire lower prices for work that used to cost employers more to receive, but I digress.

The workers who arrived to find no jobs often arrived with no papers - either with the promise of an h2 visa or some other similar type of situation. They arrived with most noble intentions. They want to help the city rebuild. They are skilled laborers who arrived with the promise of steady work. What they encountered was a city that was hostile to the hispanic influx, who they viewed as invaders. The contractors have preyed on these now day laborers, hiring them and then at the end of the work period (week, 2 weeks, month, etc.) stiff them on pay - shoving them out, pulling guns on the immigrants, calling ICE (formerly INS), etc. The police have been hostile, collecting the immigrants, shoving, beating, threatening these workers who are gathering in legal locations looking to find work.

Our job is to observe the workers at the corners. We're to provide a NLG presence to the corners, to see how the police interact, how the property holders act, and observe any malfeasance. We are not intervenors; we are not there to "fix" things immediately. We are there to provide a presence, to start the ball rolling towards finding a solution to a problem that these individuals have found themselves in in spite of themselves.

These immigrants did not wake up one morning and say "hey, I think I'm going to illegally immigrate to the United States today so I can stand on a street corner and be harassed by various Americans in hopes that I can find work with a guy that *might* pay me so that I can afford to eat and/or sleep." That's something that seems to be missed by so many Americans. They were preyed upon and are now being treated in a hostile manner. To quote one of the laborers, Oscar, "they (the people driving by) will brake for a dog, but not a Mexican." Even if you don't agree with the presence of the laborers, nobody deserved such treatment.

More later, probably with a restatement of the quote with some building upon.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot and days of Auld Lang Syne