People Get Ready

[ make levees, not war ]

Home at Last!

Posted by schroeder915 on March 19, 2007

It’s the last PGR move — I promise!

Posted in Blogger vs. WordPress | 2 Comments »

Here Comes the Sun

Posted by schroeder915 on March 16, 2007

Is there any information more vital for you to know than how safe your neighborhood is before you and your family step out of the door each day?

Citizens have a right to this fundamental information. Momentum is building to officially and publicly request that the New Orleans Police Department supply citizens with the raw 911 data each and every day so that citizens can build their own crime mapping, reporting, and alert system.

Later, the same request for raw data will be made of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office or Criminal District Courts to get the Docketmaster records. With these two pieces of information, citizens could be alerted to emerging dangers in their neighborhoods and other places they travel throughout the city. They could also track for themselves, from the initial offense all the way to final disposition, the effectiveness of the D.A. and the courts in prosecuting offenders.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, not just for cleaning up corrupt or ineffective institutions, but for identifying problems in neighborhoods so that citizens can proactively engage the appropriate tactical resources at solving those problems.

Why should citizens build their own crime reporting system? Because the city already has a system, and it sucks! Here’s just another example of how citizens can and will take charge where government institutions have failed.

A big part of the problem isn’t just that citizens don’t have access to basic information, it’s that they don’t have access to meaningful dialog with public officials. When officials do offer opportunities for dialog, it’s behind closed doors where promises made may soon be ignored or forgotten.

Promises made by NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley to do a walkthrough with Karen Gadbois through her Northwest Carrollton neighborhood were never fulfilled. Despite frequent complaints she made about drug dealing activity out of abandoned homes, the city and NOPD didn’t respond to her complaints until someone was murdered.

Note, as well, the recent announcement by Riley that the NOPD would now focus on violent offenders instead of harrassing “good-quality citizens” in traffic stops:

“We are going to give them warnings and move on,” Riley said. “We are not going to tie our officers up with good-quality citizens who have no arrest records … We have to get our officers back on the streets and focus on hardcore criminals.”

I thought the original intent of the traffic stops was to focus on violent criminals, but that quickly proved not to be the case. I saw for myself a completely illegible traffic ticket issued to an acquaintence. The officer who wrote the ticket didn’t say what the citation was, and didn’t print clearly enough for the carbon transfer to occur. I’ve heard many other cases of poorly-written tickets being issued, or unnecessary citations issued. I’m a supporter of traffic stops. I know this to be an effective tool for catching violent offenders as they move through the city. Unfortunately, the intent of the order to conduct more traffic stops was lost in its execution. While the NOPD absolutely should be issuing citations for drivers who endanger public safety, right now, wasting time writing citations for broken tail lights or expired brake tags might not be the best use of the time of an already depleted and overextended police force. This was a questionable policy which further eroded public confidence in the NOPD. Had Chief Riley actually sat down with citizens, now over two months ago, to listen to their perspectives about an appropriate crime-fighting strategy, he might have arrived at a better policy sooner.

In their announcement of a plan for greater cooperation, published in The Times-Picayune today, Dumb Ass D.A. Eddie Jordan will be more closely cooperating with the NOPD to prosecute offenders. While it’s good to know that the “ice is slowly melting,” I should think citizens deserve more of an opportunity to demand direct accountability to citizens themselves. Instead, conveniently, Riley and Jordan have insulated themselves from the public by calling for the Police and Justice Foundation to monitor the reforms. With only two cases accepted out of 47 arrests on 162 murders for 2006, and with just one prosecution, are we going to have to wait another year to find out Eddie’s prosecution score? Shouldn’t we be entitled to more open information at any time about what’s going on in the D.A.’s office and the court system?

Citizens should have been given an opportunity to make that claim for greater transparency and more direct accountability. Citizens have little reason to trust that the NOPD and D.A.’s office are finally burying the hatchet, and they should be given a more active role in demanding reforms. In fact, it would have helped Warren Riley’s case to have citizens backing him up in the quest for greater accountability out of Eddie Jordan’s office. But no. Once again, the “community policing” strategy is little more than an empty rhetorical flourish.

Today is Freedom of Information Day, the last day of Sunshine Week. This might be an appropriate occasion to think about what information citizens have a right to so that we can accurately monitor how well our public institutions are serving us. The criminal justice system is arguably the most important of our public institutions. Both Warren Riley and Eddie Jordan need to be more forthcoming with the information we need to evaluate both the safety of our neighborhoods, and the efficient functioning of the entire criminal justice system.

Posted in Crime, Eddie Jordan, New Orleans, NOPD, Warren Riley, Worst D.A. Ever | Leave a Comment »

A change is gonna come

Posted by schroeder915 on March 11, 2007

Not that I mind people seeing ol’ boneless chicken when they visit, but I truly am falling behind. The Times-Picayune’s Mark Schleifstein, Bob Marshall, and Dan Swenson get enormous accolades for adding kindling to the fire by underscoring how important it is that Louisiana reverse the destruction of coastal wetlands in the next ten years! I may have more to say about that at another time, because I also have some great NASA imagery and reports on global warming and sea level rises that I’ve been holding on to.

Yep, after months of plotting, tweaking, evaluating, and screwing around, PGR is about to make the last move to a new host. Get ready to update those links, because a change is gonna come! This week! Bear with me, and then I’ll put all those juicy sidebar links back that used to be in the Blogger PGR.

I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. For now, I’ll just say I’ve been busy aiding other projects vital for the recovery of New Orleans. I ask everyone to join in these efforts to make a difference for a city we love, and which deserves our love in return.

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Crime Mapping, Hurricane Protection, Louisiana, Media Democracy, New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration | 6 Comments »

Still a boneless chickenhawk

Posted by schroeder915 on March 2, 2007

kfcbucket_bush_300px.jpg

AND WORST! PRESIDENT! EVER!

What an absolutely pathetic boneless bucket of sh*t for a president.

How could any human being visit New Orleans and not recognize that, notwithstanding the challenges, the city is one of the most unique in the world. How could anyone come to our city and not commit to restoring the coastal wetlands destroyed by dredged oil company shipping lanes and by the Mississippi River channeled to accomodate shipping. These factors are largely responsible for the subsidence of the coast and saltwater intrusion which made New Orleans vulnerable to Hurricane Katrina. A Hurricane Katrina sized storm 50 years ago wouldn’t have caused as much destruction as we saw in 2005 because the coastal wetlands have been shredded.

How could any human being witness the misery caused by the failure of the shoddily-constructed federal levee system, and not commit to raising them to a sturdy Category 5 level.

All we heard from our pathetic president was some off-the-cuff trite remark about how, like The Saints, New Orleans residents are fighters. Hey asshole — some of us are losing the fight! Some of us have seen our insurance rates triple or quadruple by gouging private insurers who shouldn’t be allowed to sell policies in any state if they don’t fairly treat policyholders in Louisiana. Hey asshole, some of us, a year and a half later, still don’t have enough money to rebuild our homes! You quip that $110 billion ought to be enough. Well, hey asshole — it ain’t enough! After your Shaw Group, Halliburton, Bechtel, Parsons Brinkerhoff buddies ran their little plantation scheme to siphon billions in taxpayer dollars for themselves while paying immigrants to do all the work for pennies on the dollar, there wasn’t much left for rebuilding.

The Times-Picayune:

The $110 billion in federal assistance for the Gulf Coast is widely misinterpreted. First, the money was divided among the five Gulf Coast states and covers damage from Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which hit south Florida. The LRA figures that Louisiana’s share of that was about $59 billion, but even that is misleading.

About $18 billion came in the form of disaster relief, which includes the kind of post-crisis assistance — health care, evacuee assistance, business loans — the federal government routinely extends in a major crisis. An additional $14.7 billion was in payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program, for which Louisiana policyholders had paid premiums.

By the LRA’s calculations, the state has received $26.4 billion in genuine federal help, including money to rebuild levees, homes, schools and community infrastructure.

“A lot has been said about the $110 billion,” said Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge. “We just haven’t seen it.”

That leaves $26 billion remaining for Louisiana for all of its financial needs, which include far more than the $7 billion allocated for housing rebuilding grants, far more than the tens of billions to rebuild the levees to Category 5 strength, far more than the $14 billion needed to start a vigorous coastal restoration plan, and far, far more to rebuild the shattered sewerage and water system which pumps twice water as goes to the tap thanks to subsidence breaks throughout the city.

There are so many needs unmet by your pathetic leadership, Mr. President, that the imagination staggers to comprehend how you couldn’t see them, or how you could ignore them. Of course, it would help if you actually left the Isle of Denial and visited the remaining 80 percent of the city devastated by flooding to see what the hell is going on there. Maybe you ought to stand with a megaphone on top of the breach in the 17th Street Canal (which still doesn’t have a working pumping facility at the canal gates), as you did in that photo op on the rubble of the World Trade Center towers, and announce that you will do whatever it takes to rebuild this city. Your message would echo across vacant neighborhoods — bouncing back-and-forth against a bleak landscape of still-shattered homes.

It’s no use for you to declare — as you should — that you will work to “break through” the bureaucratic “logjams” to get the money flowing. Thank you, but we’ve heard those platitudes before, as when you stood in Jackson Square and announced you would do whatever it takes for New Orleans to rise again. That was a year and a half ago. Tell us HOW. Tell us what your PLAN is to break through the bureaucratic logjams. Tell us you will waive the 10 percent local share for federal recovery grants as has been done for every other federal disaster in the last quarter century. Give us the details of a specific plan to address our needs.

Since you didn’t have anything new to offer, it was probably a relief for you to be able to mention the proposed $450 million in federal money to help the devastated schools of New Orleans, but … er … that’s a proposal being offered by the Democratic Congress. Oops!

Mr. Bush, don’t you dare return ever again to New Orleans until you have an adequate response to ALL of our needs.

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Hurricane Katrina, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration, Worst President Ever | 8 Comments »

President Bush: Commit to Cat 5 storm protection and coastal restoration!

Posted by schroeder915 on March 1, 2007

President Bush,

On your visit to New Orleans today, note that a full year and a half has passed since the federal levee system failed, and you still haven’t committed to preventing such a disaster from occurring again. If you aren’t already aware that it was the levees, not the hurricane, that destroyed New Orleans, go visit Leake Avenue where people with flood-damaged homes have lined up outside the Corps of Engineers’ building to file their Form 95 claims against the Corps.

You, Mr. President, have a responsibility to commit adequate resources to compensate victims, to rebuild this city, to repair the institutional morass that created the disaster in the first place, and to protect America’s most unique cultural city from future disasters.

Your six-month hiatus from New Orleans, and your failure to mention New Orleans in your State of the Union address, are totally unacceptable. You can start to make up for those failures by committing today to a plan, to funding, and to targeted completion dates, for true Category 5 storm protection and coastal restoration.

So little has happened in the last year and a half, that I don’t even have to restate the arguments for Cat 5 storm protection and coastal restoration. I’ll just refer you to the post I wrote six months ago, and these letters which reflect the sentiment of all New Orleanians …

T-P letters:

President Bush has proposed allocating another $1 billion to “create jobs and help reconstruction in neighborhoods. . . . to help rebuild from the bottom up, from schools to local government to political interest groups.”

The president was speaking, of course, not about New Orleans, but about Iraq.

As I witness the destruction of my city on a daily basis and hear the continued pain of its citizens, it is surreal that my tax dollars continue to flow to the rebuilding of Iraq.

Kathy Meunier
New Orleans

 

The solution to our crime problem was just answered by President Bush in his address to the country the other day.

From now on, murderers, thugs, drug dealers, etc. will be called insurgents by the New Orleans media and all government officials.

Once we have established to the rest of the country that New Orleans is under attack by these insurgents, President Bush will go to Congress to plead for billions of dollars in aid and to send additional troops to the epicenter of insurgency in the United States: New Orleans.

Lee Scherman
New Orleans

Out of Iraq into New Orleans!

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Protection, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, New Orleans, Rebuild New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration, Worst President Ever | 6 Comments »

Helen Hill Jazz Funeral

Posted by schroeder915 on February 24, 2007

pgr5561.jpg

2/27/07 update: Audio from the funeral march (mp3, 23 mb).

Posted in Helen Hill, New Orleans, New Orleans Music | 2 Comments »

What would the world be like without New Orleans?

Posted by schroeder915 on February 23, 2007

amexneworleans400p.jpg

What would America the world be like without New Orleans?

There will be another opportunity to find out when WYES channel 12 re-broadcasts “New Orleans” on The American Experience, Saturday, at 10:30 p.m.

The program Web site features this interesting map of the city which traces the development of New Orleans neighborhoods along with improved drainage made possible by the Wood screw pump:

amexperience_neworleans_map.jpg

Related: New Orleans topography and flooding.

On an unrelated topic — I called the Secretary of State’s office in Baton Rouge to find out what New Orleans would be like without District Attorney Eddie Jordan. We’ll have an opportunity to find out in 2008 when we get to vote him out of office (if we don’t recall the SOB first). The D.A. serves a six-year term. Jordan was elected in 2002, and assumed office in 2003. The primary election is October 4th, 2008.

Posted in 2008 Elections, Eddie Jordan, Katrina Dissidents, New Orleans, Worst D.A. Ever | 1 Comment »

Mardi Gras 2007

Posted by schroeder915 on February 21, 2007

pgrsamlaleash.jpg

It’s hard to choose favorites, but after a cursory glance at my Mardi Gras photos as a whole, I’d have to say that this wins the prize for the best political costume — Uncle Sam leading Louisiana around on a leash would ask people if they wanted money, and then ask if they were from Louisiana. If they answered yes, Sam would pull back the money and nonchalantly quip, “Oh. Well you can’t have any.” (Related: Roxanne at Pandagon made reference to a pretty good Wall Street Journal article about why the recovery isn’t happening).

The wrestlers win for best group costume as well as for the day’s best performance.

It was a glorious day. After a week of chilly weather on the parade route, the sun came out and warmed up the streets for maskers, and the rain was held at bay. The joy in the streets was palpable. This is a town like no other. For all of her troubles, on a day like this, the grief, the misery, the exasperation, are all momentarily suspended as revelry reigns supreme.

More photos.

I captured this video (wmv) on my little Canon A510 not so much for the images, but for the sound. Here’s one of those occasions where I wished I had brought my audio recording gear with me, and in particular, wished I had talked more to the creators of the float (hint: if you know who these people are, please let me know — I’d still like to talk to them). The reason I’m so interested is because, after listening to the video, I realized that the singer of the song “The Opposite Machine” was Paul Gailiunas. The float designers must have been friends of his. Oddly enough, I was thinking specifically about Paul when I traded in a trouble card for a prize. The song can be found on the “Here Come the Troublemakers” CD. The Opposite Machine wins for best sentiment and idea implementation.

Here’s a short video (wmv) of the Krewe of St. Ann band playing “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.” The joy of such celebrations shared in the streets is in marked contrast to the hateful Christian tourists marching around with their loathsome banners while stealing glances at titties. I considered for a moment catching video of a guy who was protesting the Christians in Jackson Square by drowning out their megaphones with one of his own. He just kept repeating ad nauseum, “Stop the hate. Stop the hate. Stop the hate.” I remarked to one of the Christians who begged me to take some of the water nobody would accept at the table piled high with donated clothing nobody needed that, “People don’t need clothes anymore — they need houses. You should be building houses.”

Posted in Carnival, Mardi Gras, New Orleans | 8 Comments »

Let’s keep the keys to the city

Posted by schroeder915 on February 20, 2007

When Nagin gave away the keys of the city to the king of Rex, relinquishing leadership he doesn’t exercise, he made uncomfortable jokes about not having to do his job anymore.

Let’s keep the keys, and give no-C Ray the boot!

(I couldn’t find video of the handing away of the keys on any of the local TV newscast archives or NOLA.com, though I did see it on the 10:00 news last night).

Related:

Carnival, in order to be enjoyed, requires that rules and rituals be parodied, and that these rules and rituals already be recognized and respected. One must know to what degree certain behaviors are forbidden, and must feel the majesty of the forbidding norm, to appreciate their transgression. Without a valid law to break, carnival is impossible. During the Middle Ages, counterrituals such as the Mass of the Ass or the coronation of the Fool were enjoyable just because, during the rest of the year, the Holy Mass and the true King’s coronation were sacred and respectable activities. The Coena Cypriani quoted by Bachtin, a burlesque representation based upon the subversion of topical situations of the Scriptures, was enjoyed as a comic transgression only by people who took the same Scriptures seriously during the rest of the year. To a modern reader, the Coena Cypriani is only a boring series of meaningless situations, and even though the parody is recognized, it is not felt as a provocative one. Thus the prerequisites of a ‘good’ carnival are: (i) the law must be so pervasively and profoundly introjected as to be overwhelmingly present at the moment of its violation (and this explains why ‘barbaric’ comedy is hardly understandable); (ii) the moment of carnivalization must be very short, and allowed only once a year (semel in anno licet insanire); an everlasting carnival does not work: an entire year of ritual observance is needed in order to make the transgression enjoyable.

Carnival can exist only as an authorized transgression (which in fact represents a blatant case of contradicto in adjecto or of happy double binding — capable of curing instead of producing neurosis). If the ancient, religious carnival was limited in time, the modern mass-carnival is limited in space: it is reserved for certain places, certain streets, or framed by the television screen.

In this sense, comedy and carnival are not instances of real transgressions: on the contrary, they represent paramount examples of law reinforcement. They remind us of the existence of the rule.

Carnivalization can act as a revolution (Rabelais, or Joyce) when it appears unexpectedly, frustrating social expectations. But on the one side it produces its own mannerism (it is reabsorbed by society) and on the other side it is acceptable when performed within the limits of a laboratory situation (literature, stage, screen …). When an unexpected and nonauthorized carnivalization suddenly occurs in ‘real’ everday life, it is interpreted as revolution (campus confrontations, ghetto riots, blackouts, sometimes true ‘historical’ revolutions). But even revolutions produce a restoration of their own (revolutionary rules, another contradicto in adjecto) in order to install their new social model. Otherwise they are not effective revolutions, but only uprisings, revolts, transitory social disturbances.

In a world dominated by diabolical powers, in a world of everlasting transgression, nothing remains comic or carnivalesque, nothing can any longer become an object of parody.

Umberto Eco, “The frames of comic ‘freedom’,” _Carnivale!_, Ed. Thomas A. Sebeok. Berlin: Mouton, 1984.

Posted in Carnival, Katrina Dissidents, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Worst Mayor Ever | 3 Comments »

Empower New Orleans citizens; support open source solutions!

Posted by schroeder915 on February 19, 2007

To create a successful information-driven society, and a well-informed citizenry, public policy should promote the open source development of services, and make every effort to eliminate ownership over raw data. When data becomes an exclusive domain, citizens may not get the information they need to make critical decisions. This could be a life-and-death issue when that data could reveal to citizens critical information about the safety of their neighborhoods. For too many years, the City of New Orleans has manipulated and reported crime information as a tool to control public opinion, arguing that it has an exclusive right to the raw data. Wise citizens should be wary of private entities trying to do the same thing — limiting access to information for private benefit and, thus, stifling the data transformation solutions which might arise from open access to the raw data.

New Orleanians have always wanted easier and more timely access to information about crime, arrests, and prosecutions (or releases). Citizens have been advocating more loudly than ever before that they should have access to those records. The first hurdle — what ought to be the easiest one to clear — is asserting citizen ownership the raw 911 calls for service records. These are the records of every call placed to 911, warehoused in city data systems. The NOPD receives a daily file of those 911 records via an electronic file transfer. It would be simple to add another file recipient to the list of destination addresses.

The question, then, is who else should receive that file? One wouldn’t want to have ask the city to manage a list of recipients. It would be far better to identify a single unbiased, non-governmental entity to receive and host the data for any citizen who wishes to use it. Then, the value of the data wouldn’t be the data itself, but what citizens themselves decide to do with the data in an open society. The true value isn’t in the data itself, per se, but instead in the ways that the data can be transformed into more meaningful ways — tables, charts, maps: data transformation services.

Citizens want to know some basic facts: Where, how much, and what types of crime are occurring in their neighborhoods? Is crime rising or falling? Are there identifiable patterns of crime? Is the criminal justice system responding in an appropriate manner to emerging threats? There are a number of different ways to represent answers to those questions.

No one entity has all of the solutions, nor should one entity be trusted to publish accurate reports. This is precisely why a society which permits a free flow of raw data — allowing developers to openly access the data and to provide meaningful answers — will inevitably produce a result which far exceeds what any private entity could accomplish. Furthermore, open access to data guarantees that those information services don’t just cease when a private entity no longer sees a private benefit from using the data.

A letter to the editor today underscores a deficit of understanding in the community about how the open source principles I’ve outlined above would better serve citizens than private, exclusive principles.

Residents want to see crime statistics reported accurately and in real time, which has not been done by the police on their Web site.

A proven program called NOCrime has been endorsed by the City Council 7-0, though the council did not provide money. This program would take reporting the crimes out of the hands of police and politicians who have an interest in keeping the crime statistics low.

Such a program could help residents understand the crime in their neighborhoods, work with the police to prevent crime and ensure transparency in crime reporting.

Rusty Berridge
New Orleans

The writer is supporting an initiative being marketed around town lately to provide citizens with a crime mapping system. Unfortunately, there are, at best, exaggerated claims made about what the system was in the past, and what it will provide in the future.

The first issue citizens should consider is that the NOCrime “proven program” was a short-lived crime-mapping initiative which has now been defunct for more than ten years. Citizens really should ask what happened to the NOCrime Web site and advocacy after funding dried up? Secondly, if the NOCrime concept is so brilliant, why are there, at present, no crime mapping systems on the NOCrime Web site? There’s nothing on the NOCrime Web site now but a bunch of links to other organizations. All citizens are told by NOCrime marketers is that if their idea is supported financially, it “could” help residents.

Why not start helping us now? Indeed, the open source solutions to provide crime mapping, reporting, and alert systems already exist. What might once have required a significant investment ten years ago, when the NOCrime concept was first conceived, now only requires tapping into the freely-available mapping services in a Google maps, or Yahoo maps, mashup. All that’s lacking is the raw crime data. Indeed, there are already a number of developers who have demonstrated an interest in mapping crime, and who have resorted to very creative approaches to finding data — albeit not current data — in order to get around the lack of access to the raw 911 calls for service data.

http://noladishu.blogspot.com/2007/02/crime-mapping-update.html

http://www.geocities.com/neworleanscrimemap/

http://www.citizencrimewatch.org/

So why isn’t NOCrime supporting an open source solution, by which anyone in the community could access raw crime data to develop services for the community? Why isn’t NOCrime supporting the concept of a third party entity hosting and sharing the raw 911 calls for service data? Could it be that NOCrime has outlived its usefulness, and therefore, the only thing left to latch onto is owning the raw data for private benefit? NOCrime should be required to prove that it has the capacity to develop its own privately-owned services by sharing access to 911 calls for service data with competing citizen initiatives.

The ownership distinction is subtle — ownership of data vs. ownership of services — but it is absolutely imperative that the community not work to ingratiate one entity or another, and that it get behind an initiative to empower all citizens to develop their own robust data transformation services which outlive the interest of private entities. Moreover, in the case of reporting crime information, the best solution will be obtained when community ownership over services — not just data — is promoted as public policy. Never should rewards be derived from clutching onto data for control over information and financial resources. Neither does private development of data transformation systems serve the community effectively and in perpetuity. With open access to data, and open source development of services, the community always owns the information systems it relies upon. There is no other alternative which provides the community with absolute ownership of, and confidence in, the information they have a right to know.

The City Council is hedging on this issue, being won over by persistent NOCrime marketing tactics. Citizens need to be vocal in their support of open access/open source solutions — now — before a decision is made by the Council to support a private entity whose track record fails to demonstrate a true commitment of service to the community.

Posted in Crime, Crime Mapping, Katrina Dissidents, New Orleans | 3 Comments »

 
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