Thursday, June 29, 2006

Attention Morons (Just the Ones in Cars This Time)

Lisa at The Garden of Irks and Delights has started a list of New Orleans driving peeves inspired by this sign posted at Claiborne and Esplanade:

# 2: Attention Morons: The proper time to use the turn signal is before you apply the breaks [sic] and begin making the turn, not after you've already rounded the corner.

Today, yet another Texas-license-plated car violated all the most basic of traffic rules and nearly took me out on Louisiana Avenue turning left from the right lane nearly into my driver's door while I was in the left turn lane. It is not the Wild fucking West--I live here.

Can you tell things are tense? It's not just post-Katrina, it's in the 90s every day. Until about late August. The love is gone.

Sen. Obama's Appeal to Faith

Obama: Democrats Must Court Evangelicals

Obama said... "we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. ... In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons will continue to hold sway."

Obama coupled his advice with a warning. "Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith: the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps _ off rhythm _ to the gospel choir."

At the same time, he said, "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square."

As a result, "I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy."

Obama mentioned leaders of the religious right briefly, saying they must "accept some ground rules for collaboration" and recognize the importance of the separation of church and state.

But the right to practice one's religion must be balanced. Just as feminism that ignores men and the gender roles they are forced into (and other roles that they are privileged to have) is incomplete, just as racism is not the “problem” of black folk and must also include whites and mass education, so the right to practice one's religion must be balanced by the right to be FREE of religion. There is no reason why if I need rape counseling or a meal for my child or help with my taxes, I must go to a Baptist, or any, church. There is no reason why as a non-believer I must live under laws that govern the faithful. I have lost something if I feel bombarded by not only religious messages and slogans but religious thinking, rules and condemnation. I dare any atheist or agnostic to be open about his or her lack of faith and walk away unscathed. (In the US.) Atheists are assumed to be devil worshipers and anything else people of faith think they themselves are not--if people of faith are loving and kind, non-believers are hateful and sadistic; if people of faith care about "life," non-believers hate "life"; if people of faith love America, non-believers are traitorous, treasonous, hateful scum. Democracy shouldn't end where faith begins. Sen. Obama is right that religious faith must find a way to reconcile with a "pluralistic democracy." And part of that democracy is secular. Democratic thinking is itself secular. Most faiths urge their followers to believe, among other things, that their group is the most favored by God and other groups are condemned or just on the wrong side of righteousness. Democracy assumes we all have the same rights that should be enforced and honored equally. Faith demands belief in things without any empirical evidence or logic. Democracy depends on empirical evidence and logic. Yes, I do believe there is an inherent lack of logic in religious faith. (So does Sam Harris--see "An Atheist Manifesto" at Truthdig.) I would not believe my husband is Russian without evidence. Religions generally ask one to believe things in spite of physical evidence, in spite of inductive or deductive reasoning. There is also an inherent nosiness, a need to regulate the behavior of others and watch them as your God/god watches the faithful. Who I fuck in private does not wreck my neighbor's life or jeopardize a Midwesterner's salvation or "weaken" the institution of marriage.

And Sen. Obama, if we non-believers are to give people of faith their props, their due, their dignity, we, too, should be allowed ours. I should not have to avoid medical procedures because people of faith believe that conception equals the creation of a soul. My daughter should not have to learn in some abstinence "sex ed" course in school that girls have less libido than boys, who just can't help themselves, and it is up to her to remain virginal and enforce chasteness and purity, for herself and all boys around her, and save herself for the ultimate roles of wife and mother. In a democracy, I should be able to love and share my life with who I want regardless of what some think their Bible says. Allowing religious faith does not equal being ruled by religious faith. I have no interest in living in a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia. I like wearing what clothes I like, driving, voting, using birth control, getting advanced degrees and running my bitchy mouth.

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(Almost) The End

I finished freshperson grades yesterday. I finish creative writing grades tomorrow. Sometime mid-July, I expect my abilities to think and create will return if I nurture them with enough sleep, wine, tequila, books, Daily Show, Colbert Report, and Meerkat Manor.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

There's more

I have a student studying social work and who went to a social work-themed high school writing her researched argument on emotional and verbal abuse, that it should be considered as much as physical or sexual abuse when child protection workers consider removing a child from a home or environment. She is one of a handful of students I enjoy talking to about their projects. Then I saw The Carnival Against Child Abuse link at Abyss2hope's blog and was disappointed to see it all focused on sexual abuse. "Disappointed" is too strong word. The posts I read were good, the carnival itself is good and I look forward to its growth, it is something that should not be in the shadows and that does take a lifetime to heal. But the same applies to emotional abuse and verbal abuse. If you are only hit, from those who talk about physical abuse, your bruises and marks heal. When you are sexually, emotionally or verbally abused, the core of your existence is attacked and it takes a lifetime to pull yourself 90% together. Posts at the carnival urge education and understanding the signs of sexual abuse and as a parent, I have read and been lectured on these signs and to emphasize to your child that her body is hers. But nothing about the shredding of a child's identity, existence, self. What about the signs of emotional and verbal abuse? Years ago, when I worked with a literacy program, a tutor told a student he was smart, he was powerful, he was a winner and the boy burst into tears. The tutor and I were baffled. But it is a sign--a child who cannot hear she is worthy is one who has heard too often that she is unworthy. I know all too well. I was ignored or micromanaged and overcontrolled, told I was stupid and lazy and selfish and self-centered when I dared to disagree about things like what food or color or shoe or book I liked, told what to feel (as little as possible) and think (whatever the prevailing mood was), told the older I got that I was fat and ugly and mean and a bitch. I was always wrong--a hair out of place (with naturally fuzzy, thick, wavy-kinky hair, this was daily torture that was blamed on me), not "matching" perfectly (it was just not possible), not walking properly, not sitting properly, not chewing properly or breathing properly or having the proper expression on my face. Surprise was (and still is) expressed whenever it was revealed I had a friend or an interest or a talent. (When I first met Mister, in my late 20s, I heard my mother regularly spit, "I don't see how he puts up with you." I told him. He confronted her. She stopped saying it.) I reached adulthood convinced I was evil and unlikable (love was out of the question), stupid (with a 3.4 average at an Ivy League college), fat (at 125 lbs., I dabbled in anorexia and bulimia and settled on a steady diet of cigarettes through most of my 20s), ugly, unbearable and self-centered. And no one had hit me or raped me or sold me or kicked me onto the streets. I got an excellent education, always had food and clothes, had a car in high school. She talked glowingly of me to her friends and co-workers--when it made her look good. (I never heard this stuff.) But I could have had 4 PhDs and still thought of myself as incompetent and ignorant. I saw only my flaws. I was a shredded person. And I haven't gotten into the it's-your-father's-fault-I-didn't-abort aspects of childhood.

It is not worse or milder than sexual abuse. That is not my point. But any attacks upon a child's person, including her existence, including his right to breathe and live and eat, are abusive. Children must know they have bodily integrity and internal integrity, that no adult, or other child, has a right to attack the You of You.

6-24-06: See Marcella's response at abyss2hope. Thanks, Marcella.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The "recovery" continues to continue

The duct tape is still there and the light still works.

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All Fall Down 2

Suicide rates are up. Depression is rampant. Even those without catastrophic losses must pass debris, trailers, emptied blocks, National Guard troops daily and explain to people who lost everything they ever owned and knew, and possibly parents and grandparents, that you just lost a few shingles and have weeds in your yard you do not recognize. It's been 10 months of mental strain and emotional fatigue and it is nowhere near over yet. Plans are being planned on. Still. Money is coming, not here but coming and in time for hurricane season, a time in which few people are going to completely rebuild their lives. The article below was hard for me to read, is harder for me to live and hardest to try to sum up here. I am thisclose to buying a pack of cigarettes and trying the lunchtime margarita. Today.

A Legacy of the Storm: Depression and Suicide

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Who's Right to Return?: Survivors Village

from Survivors Village: How to Help:

Please consider sending a donation to help us continue our fight!

Send all donations to:

Survivors Village
c/o People Working Together
4712 Ray Ave
New Orleans, LA 70126

››Writers for the Right of Return:

Katrina survivors, more than ever, need your pen to aid them in their struggle to return home.The fate of New Orleans' public housing and Section 8 rentals, and with it the homes of 50,000 already traumatized Katrina survivors, hangs in the balance. On June 3rd exiled public housing residents and supporters are opening a tent city just outside the presently closed St. Bernard Housing Development, the city's largest pre-Katrina public housing complex. The "survivors village" will serve as a base of operations for the grass roots struggle to reopen all local public housing and to replenish the city's Section 8 public housing stock to its pre-Katrina levels.

Why are the most economically vulnerable Katrina exiles and their allies preparing to launch an all out struggle to reopen and replenish government subsidized housing for low income New Orleanians? Nine months after Hurricane Katrina, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, in federal receivership, is refusing to commit to the reopening of all but a tiny fraction, about 10%, of the total number of the city's public housing units. Storm damage and rent spikes have reduced available Section 8 housing to about 15% it's pre-Katrina level. The refusal of housing authorities to reopen thousands of undamaged or slightly damaged public housing units contributes enormously to New Orleans' dire housing shortage.

A failure by the government to reopen the city's public housing would all but guarantee that low income Katrina survivors will remain in exile permanently. This not a failure of leadership. This is calculated, mass ethnic cleansing. And, in the midst of all this, FEMA is threatening to cut off rental subsidies to Katrina survivors in exile. Yet the corporate media and the politicians who serve the corporations are silent as this atrocity unfolds. We hope you won't be.

Using the power of your pen you can help put the national spotlight on the heartless and criminal attempt by politicians and local developers to deny the most economically vulnerable Katrina survivors their right to return. We need you to help bring this issue to the public's attention. Why you? Because you you can write. Because you have a national audience. Because you can address issues that the corporate media won't address. Because the poorest Katrina exiles, and there are tens of thousands of them, desperately need your help. Because, if you, as a member of the progressive intelligentsia, won't expose this crime against humanity who will?

Join the Writers for the Right of Return. What is asked of members of this group? Members are committed to composing at least one article, however brief, highlighting the struggle for the affordable housing that is needed so that Katrina exiles can return home. You would forward the article to the publication of your choice.

Please reply, yeah or nay, to this call to action. I can be contacted by calling me at (504) 587-0080 or at

Thank you.

Mike Howells (United Front for Affordable Housing). (C3/Hands Off Iberville)

Also, a Weekend Edition NPR story focused on New Orleans and what HUD plans to do here--HUD is operating under the delusion that in a rental market as tight and vicious and greed-propelled as this that Section 8 will solve the public housing problem. HUD sucks as bad as the fucking Corps.

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Father's Day

Before the age of 5, the sun that rose and set daily in my world was my father. He was fun. And he liked me unconditionally, loved me unconditionally. Many Saturdays, we woke early and all went somewhere I would like—the zoo, aquarium, a museum. I don’t remember a lot of details about him then, just the feeling of sunlight. After my parents separated and divorced, I saw him less and less and after a major conflict they had (instead of a custody battle in court), I saw him sporadically and did not know or recognize the person I saw though some part of me missed him intensely and couldn’t love myself without him. In my 20s, I saw him 2 or 3 times, once at my college graduation. I’ve seen him more often since, especially after his nearly-fatal heart attack 2 years ago. But it has been so long and I have gotten “so old” that I no longer have that daddy craving and am unsure what to do with the 62-year-old man I am faced with, who I so resemble.

I had substitute fathers, my parents’ fathers and brothers. I remember listening to "The Laughing Song" in the car with my New Orleans grandfather and falling asleep watching baseball with my Mississippi grandfather. But I grew up without the absolutist authority of the male in the household. As far as I am concerned, all the emperors have no clothes. They come and go, they are needed and not, they are good and bad, they fortify and decimate. I am still trying to figure out what “father” and the particular one I have mean to me.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Who's Right to Return?

My mother grew up in what was the Magnolia housing projects Uptown. Back then, as in many ways recently, it was a place for poor people with children and elderly people living on pensions. Poor people who worked, older women who planted flowers and tomatoes and scolded children no matter who they belonged to, cooperative communities.

After promising that all have "the right to return," the federal government through HUD is now saying that there will not be enough room for everyone. While multiple condominium complexes go up around the CBD and Lower Garden District, condos that start at $200K, HUD has decided to raze and redevelop 4 housing projects over the next 3 years and to (eventually) redevelop them as "mixed-income" housing. Only 1000 more units will be open by this August, bringing the total of available public housing units to about 2,100, which is 3,046 fewer units than pre-Katrina.* What most focus on in the housing projects is drug crime, teen pregnancy and welfare dependency. They ignore the elderly who have lived in (and anchored) neighborhoods all their lives and who, even if they wanted to move, couldn't afford to live anywhere else in the city. They ignore the working poor, the single parents.

The most recent "mixed-income" housing in a former housing project area is River Garden. In the year or so that the plans were finalized, each few months, it seemed, the number of units for former St. Thomas residents (the housing project was torn down first, the people scattered throughout the city, then plans were finalized for developing the site) shrank considerably. By the time the present phase was completed, of the 1600 apartment units created, 120 were designated for public housing and only 40 of those units had been occupied before Katrina. Giving public housing land in becoming-pricey parts of town to private developers--this is HUD's idea of "successful" mixed-income housing.

With rents skyrocketing to $1000 or more for rat traps that face drug deals and nightly gunfire, single mothers are not the only ones having trouble finding a place to live. Condos + razing public housing seems to = an erasure of the poor and middle class. Just b/c Popeye's is paying $10/hour does not mean you can afford a $200,000 house or $1500 a month in rent. Our economy is still largely based in tourism and service, jobs that pay less than or barely living wages in a real estate market fueled by irrational greed and projections. People who live in half a million dollar condos want services--retail workers, restaurant workers, drivers, maids, all those jobs filled by the majority of the folks who lived in the housing projects. If they cannot find a place to live, they cannot return. The right to return should be more than a sound bite.

housing project pic from Surreal
* Filosa, Gwen. "Four Housing Complexes Will be Demolished." The Times Picayune 15 Jun 2006: A1.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Too much is and is not happening here. Some money is on the way, at some point, to help some people do some things—indefinite pronouns are the only nouns appropriate here. From the Times-Pic:
While the largest stake of the Road Home by far is $3.5 billion for homeowners, the plan also provides funding for renters, developers and homeless people in Louisiana.

The Road Home reserves $25.9 million to repair and expand the state's homeless shelters and programs.

Homeowners must have uninsured damage of more than $5,200 from Hurricanes Katrina or Rita to be eligible. An estimated 123,000 people are expected to be eligible. About 80,000 people already have registered, but Blanco said all residents should sign up, even if they are unsure of their eligibility.

In New Orleans alone, the number of households affected is over 200,000, twice the number expected to be eligible. Not that every person affected needs assistance but because of the delays prices rise and insurance payments buy less then there are the people who weren't required to buy flood insurance, low-income homeowners, people whose houses were decimated by the Army Corps of Engineers' bullshit levees. . .there are more than 123,000 folks who need help returning or starting over. Crime is up, especially property crime (flooded houses looted, architectural items stolen, etc.) and murder. The police chief hypothesized that drug criminals are returning because the court system here was a “revolving door” without Katrina and failed levees and pumping stations. The flooded parts of town look as they did 2 months after the storm, some dotted with a few trailers, husks unconnected to sewers or power lines or without keys to open them.

The people who write about New Orleans post-Katrina largely do so because they do not live here. They are elsewhere or in some way insulated (isolated?) from the day-to-day erosion of your hope, your deepest reserves, your patience and you keep trying to hide your will to live from the shit of daily life in a city it feels like the nation has spit on. Those insulated, isolated, elsewhere in whatever way write because they can. We here do not write because we can’t.

pics from

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Some Real Parents

Vegankid has a great post about parental acceptance and he refers to a news story I wanted to write about myself--Nicole Anderson, a five-year-old transgirl, who has said since she could talk that she is not a boy but a girl. Her parents will register her for kindergarten this year as a girl. It may be a total shitstorm (a previous transgirl was taken from her parents in 2000) but the Andersons are ready to stand firm and support Nicole to be who she is.

As someone who grew up towing all the lines and wishing, hoping, scraping, demeaning the self for a little recognition, much less support, Nicole's and Vegankid's stories make my eyes misty.

I hope I can be anywhere near that good a parent some of the time.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

The Palate-Scalding Tang of Resignation

Despite all remedies, advice, interventions, I am still an insomniac, just not as much of one as before. I wake too early no matter how late or early I go to sleep the night before. The sleep lack is less physically painful than it has ever been in the past 6 years (give or take 6 months) and I am adjusting to the intellectual deficits, sometimes thanks to my more fragile memory. Two of the blood relatives I most resemble physically and intellectually are also early, country-folk risers--4 or 5 a.m. every day but without the drag and deficits I have.

I no longer start yawning mid-afternoon, about 3; I start around 7. That gives me 4 hours in a day that were lost to me for at least 5 years. I cannot do much after 8 p.m. any day of the week. I also cannot get out of bed as early as I wake more than a couple of mornings a week; the other mornings I spend 1-2 hours in a fugue state of varying depth and intensity--my thinking is awake but my body is numb or painfully tired; my body is warm, alert and restless but I'm too groggy to understand what day it is or interpret the numbers on the clock and I doze off every 10-20 minutes for 10-20 minutes, which adds to the lack of coherence; or somewhere in between. If I am near the middle, the perfect storm of semi-body alertness and mental semi-alertness, it takes an hour to do the bare minimum and get to a position of possibly thinking of doing something.

“another gutless Republican worm”

I do not watch CNN news but I'm loving Jack Cafferty. His “The Cafferty File” pops up during Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room” (what a melodramatic, flaming name) and it is a joy to watch. I catch him on Crooks and Liars. (I am not about to watch any more Wolf Blitzer in this or any other lifetime.) Wednesday’s clip (QuickTime or Windows) is a beauty. To whet the appetite:

In the end, Senator Specter has turned out to be yet another gutless Republican worm cowering in the face of pressure from the administration and fellow Republicans. There are not going to be any hearings. Americans won't find out if their privacy is being illegally invaded.

You know what the Senate Judiciary Committee settled for instead? Senator Orrin Hatch said he has won assurances from Vice President Dick Cheney that the White House will review proposed changes to the law that would restrict certain aspects of the NSA program.

Dick Cheney is going to decide if it's OK to spy on American citizens without a warrant. And this worthless bunch of senators has agreed to let him do it. It's a disgrace.

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All Fall Down: New Orleans and Louisiana edition

A few outlets aside from the New York Times and the Times-Picayune have noted the Army Corps of Engineers' admission of appalling failures in its flood "protection" of the New Orleans metro area (Harry Shearer, part-timer of NO, has been doing his bit and challenged [at the bottom of the page] Brian Williams' oh-the-poor-wretches coverage of NO post-Katrina; Arianna Huffington finally threw in her 2 cents; the story has also been featured or semi-buried in other newspapers and blogs). If the Corps were a private corporation that was actually treated as a person in terms of criminal law (if a corporation is a "person" in the "eyes" of the law), they'd be liable for all the property damage, lives lost and an entire region's economy destroyed for the next decade, if not longer.


Governor Blanco is going to sign a law that will ban all abortions in the state once Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. It amazes me that this state's leaders feel that cockfighting is too sacred to ban and that abortion and homosexuality are the greatest threats to Louisiana. I'm shaking my head so much I’m dizzy.


Representative William Jefferson appears to be in a world of trouble. It is possible he is completely innocent as he says, but when a former aide is convicted for "funneling" money and assets to the representative and his family and the FBI reveals conversations taped by an informant, that $90,000 in marked bills they pulled out of his freezer looks like a smoking gun. Now the nation can again pretend that the taint of corruption here in Louisiana (as opposed to other places like Texas, Nevada, Alabama, etc. which are taint-free apparently) negates our need for federal aid to repair a city the Corps helped Katrina destroy.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Are You Done with the Carcass Yet?

The coverage of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s death by 500-pound bomb has bordered on the pornographic—maps of the “safe house,” raw Pentagon video (whatever that is), hours and hours of coverage on every network, cable and radio station nationwide, it seems, and news story titles like “Analysis: Eliminating a Face of the Insurgency” (NY Times) and “Al-Zarqawi's death a long-sought U.S. goal” (Houston Chronicle) and “Most-Wanted Iraq Terrorist Al-Zarqawi Dead” (Jackson [TN] Sun). It’s nearly gleeful in some venues. Even the death of an enemy shouldn’t be salivated over.


Yeah, You Right

I got an email yesterday that began:
Hell Dr.* Bitch,

* I do not have a Ph.D. and have no plans on getting one. Students and others, because of the plethora of Dr.s around, call me "Dr. Bitch" no matter how often I reply or write "Professor Bitch."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hopelessly Devoted to...

The Bush Administration "believes" that Iran will have nuclear weapons in the next decade. Some Americans (some New Orleanians included) "believe" that hurricane Katrina was a punishment sent by God. I was supposed to "believe" that there was a reason girls couldn't serve at the altar and "believe" that whoever decided what was a mortal versus a venal sin knew what he was doing. I was supposed to "believe" all kinds of things about girls and black people and lesbians and poor people and welfare and the benevolence and righteousness of capitalism. "Belief" has been a problem for me since childhood. I am a pragmatist and a rationalist (most of the time, I hope) and cannot and will not ever be comfortable saying I am a believer in x despite all empirical evidence. I cannot "believe" in angels anymore than I can "believe" in Santa Claus or that Iraq was a danger to the world and the US in particular or that Iran is now attempting to go nuclear so it can take over the world. Just as I cannot believe that the University comes before me and any or all other humans and human concerns, that x sorority, group, neighborhood, religion, country, political leaning, philosophy, art style or list of books read has the moral edge over anyone or -thing else without support. There are differences, there are morals, there are groups, all real, but blind belief is not something I can do. I cannot agree with something because it falls under the same rubric as some other principles I agree with (today).


There are bloggers I want to like--really, really want to--but I find them somewhat hysterical in their word choice and thinking--quick to demonize, quick to say if it walks like a duck (even if it lacks feathers or, under further consideration, walks more like a water buffalo) it must be the Demon Duck from the Muck of Hell, quick to slide into the kinds of fallacies and sloppy thinking I try to guide my students way from--red herrings, non sequiturs, straw (wo)men, hasty generalizations, stereotyping (especially in the guise of freedom, equality, civil rights, women's rights, sexual liberation, etc.), false analogies, false dilemmas and, the favorite of the blogosphere, the slippery slope. Point A too often leads to Point F without any stops in between.

And to give examples would hurt those I do and/or want to respect, who are doing the right thing, fighting the good fight and I do not mean to poke or shout, I just...can't stop being a damn English teacher.

But I am not devoted even to that.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thank the Army Corps of Engineers

These are highlights from the Times-Picayune's interactive graphic on the flooding of the New Orleans area. It is worth registering at the site to see it.








The final toll, #14

Flash Flood: "Hurricane Katrina's" (read: the Army Corps of Engineers' failed levees') Inundation of New Orleans, August 29, 2005

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The Corps Finally Admit...

Army Corps Admits Flaws in New Orleans Levees (New York Times)

Corps says gaps, flaws caused levee system failure (Times-Picayune)

It is appalling. It has been known and said by others but not the Corps until now. Because of these "gaps" and "design flaws," lives, property, jobs and businesses were lost, neighborhoods shattered, a weak economy wrecked and topped off by a bad national case of blame the victim. I don't think there's much else to say.

Except that hurricane season started today.

Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!

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