Tag Archives: stomach

Hurricane Katrina – six years later

It was six years ago today that Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast. I remember the dire warnings prior to Katrina. I remember the initial news reports suggesting the damage wasn’t as bad as we expected. Six years ago, I had just moved to Asheville, North Carolina. I was sitting in a rental house exchanging e-mails with some friends in a discussion group. This was a medical discussion group which was made up of people throughout the world. There are approximately 1000 people who participate in this discussion group. It was around midnight when someone suggested that the levees had broken. I looked everywhere. I looked at every single website that I could think of but couldn’t find any information about the levees. Even the New Orleans Times Picayune which, as I recall, had moved its headquarters from New Orleans and most of its staff writers were in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, had nothing about the levees breaking. I remember saying something like we need to stick to the facts and we shouldn’t speculate. The member of the discussion group was insistent that his information was correct. I remember having an extremely sick feeling in my stomach. Over the next several days, we saw a city, a region of the country, cry out for help. For five days there was no response.

Over the last six years I’ve written on Katrina many many times (herehere, here and here. This last one is an interview with James Perry who was running for mayor of New Orleans at the time.) I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this disaster. I’ve been to New Orleans twice in the last six years. New Orleans is a city that I truly love. New Orleans is a city that is completely different than any other city in the South. It’s not like Atlanta or Miami or even nearby Houston. The only city in the United States, in my opinion, that comes close to the feeling of pre-Katrina New Orleans would be San Francisco. There was something wonderful about New Orleans. It wasn’t simply a great mecca for music. It wasn’t simply one of the best places in the United States to eat. It wasn’t the unique architecture of the French quarter or even the garden district. It wasn’t brunch at Commander’s Palace or the fabulous art shops where we can buy original paintings from national and internationally known artists at prices the 10th of which you’d find in New York or Chicago. It wasn’t the abject poverty or the wealth of the financial district. It was all of this and more which made New Orleans a great city.

The tragedy of Katrina is that it exposed a dysfunctional political system. New Orleans politics has been famously dysfunctional for decades. Louisiana politics is almost laughable. It was nearly impossible to get anything done in Louisiana unless you “knew somebody.” Then, on top of this dysfunctional system you had the Bush administration. You had an administration that actually hated government. You add all of this together and tens of thousands of people suffered needlessly. My conclusion after reading tons of information on Hurricane Katrina is simply that we need to treat each other better.

I found this article in the New Orleans Times Picayune:

In April 2010, four and a half years into recovery, the Census Bureau found that Katrina cost New Orleans 29 percent of its population; Jefferson, 5 percent; St. Bernard, 47 percent; Plaquemines, 14 percent.

Some of those people settled nearby. St. Tammany’s population grew 22 percent; St. Charles Parish grew 10 percent; St. John the Baptist grew 7 percent.

But census takers counted a net loss of nearly 150,000 people who were driven out of a metropolitan area of what was once 1.3 million.

Allison Plyer of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, a co-author with Elaine Ortiz of “The New Orleans Index at Six,” an annual recovery analysis, said the region has showed unusual resilience in facing not only Katrina, but the 2008 recession and last year’s BP oil spill. (more…)

Update: Melissa Harris-Perry does a great job at summing up the lessons of Katrina.

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NFL: weekend wrap-up and Jay Cutler

Yes, I know that the State of the Union address begins in one hour. I don’t know, something about the State of the Union address has turned me off for more than a decade. The spectacle of I stand up and you sit down and look stonefaced kind of makes my stomach turn. So, I’m going to be pouring over the text of his speech for the next hour and hopefully I’ll have something intelligent to say in the morning. Hopefully.

Green Bay Packers versus Chicago Bears – Let me lay out the scenario for you. The Chicago Bears have a good defense. Unfortunately, they’re nothing like the 1985 Bear defense. So, they are probably not going to win the game for you but they’re not going to lose the game for you either. They do create turnovers. I’ve never been a believer in the Bear Offense. They were good, not great. On the other side of the ball, I thought the Packers were pretty well-balanced with a very good defense and a great offense. I thought that Aaron Rodgers was playing in the zone. His game against the Atlanta Falcons will be watched for years to come. It might not have been perfect but he was really, really close. So, if this assessment was correct, it was critically important for the Chicago Bears to come out red hot. They needed to seize the initiative. They needed to make the Green Bay Packers play from behind. They needed the special teams and Devin Hester to do something special. Chicago’s first five drives ended in punts. No drivers were more than six plays. The sixth drive ended in an interception (a terribly thrown ball by Cutler). This is simply a disaster, a real disaster for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that can be said about the first half that was actually good for the Chicago Bears was that the defense did not get totally overrun. The defense settled down and were able to get stops by the early part of the second quarter. Unfortunately, the score was already 14-0. The game was over by halftime. The Green Bay Packers were clearly the better team.

Now, there’s a lot of controversy and yackity-yak over Jay Cutler and his early departure from the game. It really doesn’t matter if I think that Jay Cutler (in the words of Deion Sanders) tapped out. He may have. The question is whether his teammates believe in him and his abilities. The question is whether his teammates believe that he is going to fight for them as hard as they are fighting for him… That’s the question. It appears that his teammates have rallied around him. Jay Cutler’s problem is one of perception. He doesn’t show any the emotion and the rah-rah leadership that many want to see from a top-tier quarterback. As a matter fact, most of the time he seems to have this confused look on his face. Jay Cutler got completely beaten up earlier this year. The first four games were a nightmare. He seemed to be sacked or hit on nearly every play. Yet, somehow, he played through that misery. What I do know is that Jay Cutler’s performance on Sunday was abysmal. Between Todd Collins and Jay Cutler, they were 6/18 for 80 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. I can do that, promise. (BTW, he has some sort of partially torn ACL.)

New York Jets versus Pittsburgh Steelers – It was only yesterday I was able to watch the whole game without interruption. What the hell? The Pittsburgh Steelers are walking around and pounding their chests like they did something. What? They did not win that game; they just didn’t lose it. The New York Jets fumbled away an excellent opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. This game should eat away at every Jet player for the next several weeks or months, if not years.

The game opened with Rex Ryan trying to be cute and deferring when he won the coin toss. Deferring? That’s a Bill Belichick maneuver. That’s crap. Rex Ryan had to know that his offense was going to have some tough sledding against the outstanding Pittsburgh Steelers defense. He needed to make a decision, a real decision. This is football. Bill Belichick, in my opinion, is an arrogant knucklehead. Why would anyone want to follow in his footsteps? (I would like to be as successful as he is but not follow in his footsteps.) Rex Ryan has a real defense. He needed to go to his defense and tell them that he believes they are best defense in the league and therefore, if he were to win the toss, he’d elect kickoff. Instead, he deferred. His defense got pounded. It was an embarrassing, humiliating and demoralizing 15-play, 9-minute drive which ended in a touchdown. Game over. The New York Jets, on their critically important first possession, moved the ball a whopping 19 yards (+10 yards they received in penalties). Yes, there were more touchdowns, interceptions, field goals, goal line stands and valiant efforts but for all practical purposes, the Pittsburgh Steelers said everything they needed to say on their opening drive. The New York Jets went into halftime 21 points down. That’s the game. The Steelers simply outplayed and outcoached the New York Jets in the first half.

Don’t get me wrong. The Jets did make some adjustments at halftime. The Jets really shut down the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half. Mark Sanchez, who appeared comatose in the first half, began to play like a first-round draft choice, but it was too little, too late. The Jets needed his leadership, that grit, earlier, still in the first half. Oh, by the way, if you’re trying to overcome a major deficit in the second half you cannot go on an 8-minute drive and stall on the one-yard line. That simply cannot happen if you want to go to the Super Bowl. Somehow, in some way, the Jets needed to get the ball in the end zone on that drive and it didn’t happen.

If you like defensive struggles this was a good weekend of football.

Ann Coulter – waterboarding is like a hazing

Waterbaording is torture. It isn’t like hazing. Hazing is what your older brother did to you. If those things are the same, then you should call the police and discuss whatever your brother did. We tried and executed people for waterboarding. Ann Coulter continues to turn my stomach. I need some Pepto!

Just for fun (because Coulter thinks that this is a bunch of fun) I looked up torture in the US Codes:

§ 2340. Definitions

As used in this chapter—
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

§ 2340A. Torture

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

§ 2340B. Exclusive remedies

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as precluding the application of State or local laws on the same subject, nor shall anything in this chapter be construed as creating any substantive or procedural right enforceable by law by any party in any civil proceeding.