Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Happy (?) birthday Katrina

I know people don't really like the pasted article blog updating, but as I've mentioned before I'm really busy but I do listen to news all day. I was listening to Democracy Now's War and Peace Report with Amy Goodman, and I was too shocked by what I heard not to post.

If you would like to hear the segment (it is actually a radio broadcast) click here for those of you who prefer to read I have pasted the transcript, with my own color changes for the things I found the most shocking and disgusting. I have also included some information on how to donate to MoveOn (which isn't discussed in the transcript) to help with on going relief.

AMY GOODMAN: Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The storm was the most powerful and expensive natural disaster to hit the U.S., killing more than 1,500 people in New Orleans alone, displacing some 770,000 residents and destroying over 300,000 homes. The federal government's response to the disaster was widely condemned. Images of the tens of thousands of New Orleans residents piling into the city's Superdome stadium, pleading for food, water and aid, became symbolic of the government's inaction.

In the aftermath of the storm, it became increasingly clear that the effects of Hurricane Katrina were made far worse by government incompetence and neglect. Warnings about the severity of the storm were ignored, and the levees, which were supposed to prevent New Orleans from flooding, were grossly inadequate. And, as investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals in this new Democracy Now! report, there were major holes in the city's evacuation plan

GREG PALAST: Welcome to New Orleans, whose motto is “The City that Care Forgot.” In fact, it's a city that everyone forgot.

GREG PALAST: Our president says he hasnÂ’t forgotten a promise he made here.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I want the people down there to understand that it's going to take a while to recover. This was a huge storm.

GREG PALAST: Well, Mr. President, I think people down here know it was a huge storm. Over half a million of them fled the flood. It's been a full year, and only 170,000, far less than half, have come back, almost none to their own homes.

STEVEN SMITH: Stayed three nights here and one night on the bridge.

GREG PALAST: You were three nights stuck in the flood?

STEVEN SMITH: Right here. Yep.

GREG PALAST: And they weren't looking for you?

STEVEN SMITH: We had helicopters, but they -- nothing didn't pass. At least they passed over us. I'm on a roof, holding my shirt out and saying that we had babies back here.

GREG PALAST: This is Steven Smith. Like 127,000 others in this town, he didn't have a car in which to escape, so he was left in the rising waters. Stranded in the heat on a bridge, he closed the eyes of a man who died of dehydration after giving his grandchildren his last bottle of water.
What kind of evacuation plan would leave 127,000 to sink or swim? It turns out that the Bush administration had contracted out evacuation planning to a corporation, IEM, Innovative Emergency Management. I couldn't locate their qualifications, but I did locate their list of donations to the Republican Party.
We went to Baton Rouge to talk to them.

These are the offices of Innovative Emergency Management. They were the ones that were paid a half-million bucks to come up with an emergency evacuation plan for the city of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. One problem is, I can't find the plan. So I'm coming here to ask them about it.

So when I showed up at their office, they would only talk to me from behind a glass wall. By phone.

Did you in fact come up with a plan, because it says it's urgent to come up with a plan? Did you come up -- can you just tell me if you came up with a plan or not?

We can't find your plan -- neither can FEMA -- that you were paid a half-million dollars for, that at least claimed to here. We can't find this plan. And it's kind of a problem. I guess it's kind of hard to evacuate a city, if you can't find the plan itself.

IEM EMPLOYEE: Can we -- she's got a lot of experience in evacuation.

GREG PALAST: Is it more true that maybe it was helpful that she gave a lot of donations to the Republican Party? Maybe that's the experience?



GREG PALAST: So that's when they called in the guards.

IEM SECURITY GUARD: Security has been called. We ask that you please leave the building now.

GREG PALAST: So, quickly, before security gets here, I just want to tell you that this is Innovative Emergency Management, and it's very innovative not to have a plan to manage an emergency.

I decided to look for someone with a little more experience in hurricane evacuation. LSU, Louisiana State University, they're just down the street from IEM. LSU has one hellacious football team. They also have the best team of hurricane experts in the nation. I met with Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the university's elaborate Center for the Study of Hurricanes. I asked this renowned specialist about the reputation of IEM, prior to their getting the half-million-dollar evacuation exercise contract.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: I hadn't heard of them prior to this exercise, no.

GREG PALAST: The LSU scientist already had an evacuation model, but IEM and FEMA refused to use it.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: We had the science. We had really studied this thing. We knew what was going to go wrong. We had an enormous amount of information, right down to mapping where the gas tanks were and pipelines. Science was basically ignored all the way through the process.

GREG PALAST: The LSU professors warned, for example, that the IEM plan simply made no provision for people -- the old, the sick -- who couldn't escape in a car. I asked him the consequences of this oversight.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Well, you know, 1,500 of them drowned. That's the bottom line.

GREG PALAST: Then the professor surprised me by saying that giving us this information put his job at risk.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: I wasn't going to let them -- let those sort of threats shut me down or any of the other sorts of nonsense that went on, because it was so important that we get out what had gone wrong and why.

GREG PALAST: Apparently, the heat from the university originated with a state official, who now works for IEM.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: We got a phone call from somebody in the state government who actually now works for IEM. But, I don't think that was his plan at the time. And he jumped all over me and said, by criticizing their work, I was putting the whole exercise in jeopardy, and if I did it again, I would be banned.

GREG PALAST: Back in New Orleans, former city councilman, Brod Bagert, a lawyer, standing in the gutted wreckage of his own home, did not think kindly of the concealment of van Heerden's warnings.

BROD BAGERT: Ongoing protection that should have been occurring was done -- it was done negligently. Not only wrong, negligently. And not only negligently, but reckless negligence, the kind of negligence for which an individual would be indicted, prosecuted, tried, convicted, and spend their life in jail. Negligence that killed people, lots of people. Reckless negligence that killed human beings. Old ladies watched the water come up to their nose, over their eyes, and they drowned in houses just like this in this neighborhood, because of reckless negligence thatÂ’s unanswered for.

GREG PALAST: There's an x on this house. It has a five under it. That means that five corpses were pulled out of here, five people who were killed. And they weren't killed by Katrina. They were killed by this, a levee, which was supposed to protect them from the waters of the Mississippi, and it failed. And they never told the five in there that they knew it would fail.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: FEMA knew at 11:00 on Monday that the levees were breached. At 2:00, they flew over the 17th Street canal and took video of the breach. By midnight on Monday, the White House knew. But none of us knew.

GREG PALAST: Back at LSU, van Heerden's experts warned the Bush administration about levees, long before Katrina hit.

DR. IVOR VAN HEERDEN: I, myself, briefed many, many senior federal officials, including somebody from the White House.

GREG PALAST: Without the warning that the levees had begun to break, evacuations stopped, until it was too late. But those that survived, where were they? This city is still half empty.

AMY GOODMAN: Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of New Orleans, destroying the city's infrastructure, displacing most of its residents. A year later, only about half of New Orleans population of 450,000 people has returned. Many of those unable to come back are poor and African American. In the ravaged, mostly Black neighborhood of the Lower Ninth Ward, only 1,000 of the 20,000 people who lived there before Katrina have returned. This has drastically altered the demographics of a city that used to be two-thirds Black. Activists and residents have condemned the government's refusal to reopen the city's public housing projects and point out that while tourist areas are being developed, affordable housing is not being built. Many are asking, "Who is New Orleans being rebuilt for?" Here again, investigative reporter Greg Palast, from New Orleans.

GREG PALAST: We drove back to New Orleans to find out what happened to those who tried to return.
What's wrong, now?

DISPLACED NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: They just messing all over us?

GREG PALAST: What are they doing?

DISPLACED NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Putting you out your own house. Now we ain't got nowhere to go. You called them back, saying we could come back home. Then when we get there, they got the police coming in there putting us out and others. They're harassing us. Oh no, this is not right. I'm basically between here and Texas, coming in -- you know, coming to see if I could get my house back. And I'm -- you know, but I'm in Texas, but I'm coming down here to see about my house. But they say they ain't letting nobody in and all this. But where we going to go at, though? Where's we going to go at?

GREG PALAST: What happened?

PATRICIA THOMAS: And then they told us to come back.

GREG PALAST: What happens tonight? Where are you going to go tonight?

DISPLACED NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: That's what I want to know, mister. I don't know where I'm going, me and my kids.

GREG PALAST: Her friend, Patricia Thomas, was also locked out of her home in the Lafitte housing project. The next day, we helped her break into her apartment, barred by metal plates.
The city has sealed up almost all public housing. But these apartments were never touched by water. It was nearly perfect.
And this, it's been a year.

PATRICIA THOMAS: It's been a year, and my house looking good like that.

GREG PALAST: I think you and I together, just the two of us, could put your place back together in a week.


GREG PALAST: No problem.

PATRICIA THOMAS: No problem at all.

GREG PALAST: But they won't let her in. And this has nothing to do with Katrina.

PATRICIA THOMAS: Katrina didn't do this. Man did this. Katrina didn't come in my house and put these gates up on my windows and things. Katrina didn't have me walking out here looking for somewhere to stay. Man did this. This was manmade.

GREG PALAST: This is not what we think of as public housing in America. These places are gorgeous, two- and three-story townhouses with iron porticos. Why would the city spend thousands of dollars per unit to armor these places, kick out the tenants? Well, the answer may be over here. This is the downtown business district. We are halfway between there and the tony French Quarter. In other words, this is some very expensive real estate. For years, the city and speculators have been trying to get the tenants out of these apartments. Katrina, the perfect storm, was the perfect excuse. So what kind of New Orleans do they want?

GREG PALAST: This is the new New Orleans, stripped down, downsized, not too Black, just right for tourists. You could call it Six Flags over Louisiana.
But across the Mississippi, far from the Quarter, not everyone is thrilled with this brave new New Orleans of tourists and Mardi Gras.

MALIK RAHIM: It's two cities. You know? There's the city for the white and the rich. And there's another city for the poor and Blacks. You know, the city that's for the white and rich has recovered. They had a Jazz Fest. They had a Mardi Gras. They're going to have the Saints playing for those who have recovered. But for those who haven't recovered, there's nothing.

GREG PALAST: Malik Rahim is a leader of Common Ground, a grassroots recovery organization. He explains why Patricia and others are locked out of their apartments.

MALIK RAHIM: They didn't want to open it up. They wanted them closed. They wanted them poor niggers out of there, and they ain't had no intention to allow it to be reopened to no poor niggers, you know? And that's just the bottom line.

GREG PALAST: Malik's group isn't waiting on George Bush to get around to housing the surviving poor.

MALIK RAHIM: This is a unit we are getting together.

GREG PALAST: Common Ground is completing almost as many homes as the Bush administration, but who's left? And who will stay?
This is the Lower Ninth Ward, or I should say "was" the Lower Ninth Ward, an African American working class neighborhood. There's no potable water here. There's no electricity. There's no nothing. There's just no way to return, and a lot of residents feel that's exactly the plan.
This is Mr. Henry Irving, Sr. He has no neighbors, no water, no electricity, but he is not leaving.

HENRY IRVING, SR.: They want you to leave. That's what they want us to do. They want us to get discouraged and leave. So why leave? Where I'm going, then? I'm going to go to another community? I put all my life in this community. I'm going to stay here, and if God's willing, I'm going to be here long enough to see it come back.

GREG PALAST: So can it happen again? Another hurricane? Another flood? Don't worry, because the government has hired a consulting firm to analyze what went wrong with the response to Katrina. It's a little firm from Baton Rouge called Innovative Emergency Management.

AMY GOODMAN: Investigative reporter Greg Palast in New Orleans with producer Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films.

AHHHHHHHH- That last part makes me sooo mad....IEM? That's who they hired to analyze what went wrong? And why haven't I heard about most of this before????

Here is some information about a way to donate:

Just after Hurricane Katrina hit, MoveOn members and others stepped up to provide a roof, a bed and hope to more than 30,000 evacuees as part of MoveOn's Hurricane Housing effort.
Today, we're launching our new book—It Takes A Nation: How Strangers Became Family—which tells the stories of the families involved. It's a beautiful book, featuring amazing and moving first-person interviews with Katrina evacuees and the donors who took them in, and evocative photos of the folks involved and the aftermath of the flood. Senator Barack Obama wrote the forward.

To commemorate Katrina, we're donating every cent of the profits to the progressive group ACORN, which is working to protect evacuees' rights and rebuild New Orleans right. If you donate $25 today to help Katrina relief efforts, we'll send you a copy of It Takes a Nation (which retails for $25) for free.

You can learn more about the book, check out some of the photos and interviews, and make a donation, at:


Monday, August 21, 2006

Working at work?

I actually have work to do here, amazing! Of course this means I have a lot less time for personal work like blogging.

I have had a few topics I've wanted to blog about- most notably my new found love for podcasts. But I just had 3,000 pounds of magnets delivered to me today, so I suppose I should concentrate on sending some of those out before we move to the 5th floor in two weeks. If you would like a magnet on Perinatal Depression in English, Spanish, Portuguese or all three let me know.

Right now I am listening to the Al Franken Show on
Air America, and they are talking about John Prescott saying that Bush is crap. Awesome that our closest ally in the "war on terror" thinks our President is crap. Al thought it might be the word for a type of pudding in England (such as spotted dick), but that idea has proved false and apparently crap means the same thing on both sides of the pond.

That is the cool thing about the work I am doing right now, it is pretty much all number crunching for the distribution plan so I can listen to interesting radio shows while doing it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Devil and Melanie wears Prada?

Nope, I didn't buy anything Prada. That would only happen if Second Time Around had a Prada item for under $50. What actually happened is I took a personality test, it was very thorough and came up with interesting results and suggestions. Click here to read the full report, and if you really know me tell me what you think because I am curious for other peoples opinions.

Anyway, the results group your different personality traits as very high, slightly high, average, slightly low, and low. My three very high traits were femininity (I can accept this since it gave me average masculinity as well), openness, and..... attention to style. It went even further to say:

You have a strong sense of style and value your personal presentation - friends may even seek your style advice from time to time.

Hahaha.... something went wrong there, I don't think anyone has ever asked me for style advice, it's usually the
other way around.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Hi, is Mr. (butcher last name) available?....Oh, he passed on last year....well...are you his wife?"

That was my opening line when I was a telemarketer in the summer of 2001. I have had many, many different jobs, and telemarketing is in the top five of "never again" jobs. I worked for a company called Security Financial, we sold living trusts, which is why "oh he passed on?" was frequently part of my pitch.

I hated it, I was terrible at cold calling and always felt I was annoying people and it wore on me. Fortunately my boss really liked me, and gave me a position calling people who had filled out cards asking for more information. This was a great relief because it meant that people weren't entirely shocked when I called, I felt justified in calling them because they had requested information, and I got a little office all to myself. They also paid well, $11/hr plus bonuses for hitting quotas, which I always hit once I was on the cards.

Then in the summer of 2003 I found myself telemarketing again, this time for Zoots, the delivery dry cleaning service. This job really ate away at my soul, because the people I was calling were people that had stopped using Zoots. They had usually stopped with Zoots because they were not happy with the service, and sometimes it was because Zoots had seriously fucked them over. And here I was, representing the company they were displeased with- what a perfect opportunity to vent you anger! Ugh, that job also involved door-to-door sales- I won't even get into that!

Since then I have earned my B.A. and have slept soundly every night knowing that my days of telemarketing were behind me. So why do I find myself calling people whose names I don't know how to pronounce and being treated like shit by the people who answer? Why? Because people don't respond to their e-mails thus forcing me to call them!

Here's the voicemail I leave, since almost no one actually answers:

"Hi, my name is Melanie LaFav, I'm calling from the Department of Public Health, Christine identified (insert Community Health Center name) as an appropriate CHC to be sent some perinatal depression awareness materials we have developed. At this point I am working on the distribution plan and need to find out how many of these materials and what languages we should send to your CHC. If you could call me back at 617 555 5907 or if you'd like to e-mail me at Melanie- M-E-L-A-N-I-E dot LaFav L-A-F like Frank- A-V like Victor at... that would be great, thanks."

Sometimes I get a secretary and they frequently treat me badly and question me a lot because they assume that I am a telemarketer. And then sometimes the person I am trying to contact actually answers. Now, they are usually quite nice to me and are excited about the materials, but this morning I basically got a lecture about how they serve mainly Chinese patients (the materials are in 6 languages but Chinese is not one of them). Did she listen to my pitch? Didn't she hear me say Christine identified her CHC? I don't know anything about your CHC or the population you serve, if I did I would use my knowledge to just send you the materials without having to listen to you bitch me out on the phone!

Ugh, then the very next person I called was a woman I had talked to the week before. We had spoken on the phone and she was happy to receive the materials, I sent her the e-mail (it explains more and then she is supposed to give me the numbers- which the people I have gotten in contact with have been doing) and crickets- so I was calling to follow-up. I got her bitchy secretary who tried telling me that if Dr. Mullen did not reply then they do not need the materials. At this point something started to snap- "No", I explained, "she told me she was interested, she just hasn't responded and I am trying to follow-up. " She came back, "Well the best I can do is give you her voicemail, I can't give you the numbers." When did I ask you for the numbers? That's when it snapped, with a very biting tone I responded, "Yeah, that's all I wanted in the first place."

So clearly I am not making any friends in this process and I am maintaining the highest professionalism. But, seriously, these are free materials to raise awareness amongst your patients who you are supposed to care about. We as a team, and I personally have put a lot of time into developing and testing and re-working these materials and all I want from you is a number- how many do you want? The languages? Don't worry- I can use one of our databases to figure that out....just tell me how many you want! They're free, they're pretty, I promise they won't bite!

That was a very boring post, but I am frustrated and needed to vent.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Live from Jamaica Plain

That's right folks, the computer has arrived. I promptly set up the
wireless and found a network to piggyback on. Of course the connection is kinda shotty so maybe one day Claud and I will get the courage to walk upstairs and ask the Mingo boys if maybe they'd like to share their network.

Hopefully now that I am freed from the confines of having to use the internet at work I will be able to get more things done- like posting ;).
 Posted by Picasa

Me and my 10 speed

I bought a bike! It is currently the highlight of my life.

Last week I walked into
Bikes Not Bombs in Roxbury and was met by a fidgety little bikestress (yes I just made that word up). She helped me pick out everything from my frame to my toe clips (which I didn't even realize I wanted) and in five short weeks I will have a refurbished bike that was custom built just for me.

Bikes Not Bombs is a really cool non-profit organization that recycles and refurbishes bicycles and send them to developing countries to provide people with an alternative form of transportation. They also train urban youth to either "earn a bike" or work in the bike shop. Anyway you can read up more on them by clicking the link above, but needless to say I was happy to shell out $200 for my bike and another $60 for my helmet, lock, and Boston bike map.

In my excited fervor I promptly put a Bikes Not Bombs sticker on my water bottle (I have recently started stickering my metal water bottle to keep people from thinking that it is a coffee thermos- which it technically is). The next morning I was in a meeting with my boss and purposely turned my water bottle so she could see my new sticker (I knew that she would recognize and be in support of BNB). Sure enough she took the bait and we chatted a little about the organization and how great they are. She asked about donating frames and I said I was planning on buying a cheapy bike off
craigslist (if you have never checked out craigslist you need to pull your head out of the hole and check it out) and then donating it when my new bike was ready. At that point she protested my decision and told me to just borrow one of the many bikes that was not being used in her family- amazing! That night my good friends Chelsea and Maria drove me over to Karin's place and then drove me and my bike home (I was going to take the T-there and then ride home but my "big brother" Mike kept insisting that he would never see me again if I enacted that plan).

So I have spent the last 5 days riding all around Boston on my nifty loaner bike. I have biked to and from work everyday and to and from my practice and game. The work commute is 4.5 miles and for a good portion of that I am on the Southwest Corridor- a sweet paved bike path. Then I hit downtown Boston and I hop onto the mean streets. Now this may seem scary, but I find it quite exhilarating and I am taking all of the precautions that I can to make sure my father's worst nightmares do not come true (I wonder if my Mom has even told my dad yet). I found this great
document on how to not get hit by a car, and much to my mother's chagrin it warns over and over that riding on the sidewalk is a quick ticket to hurting yourself (by allowing an unsuspecting car to hit you while you cross the street) and others (the moving target that is a pedestrian is not easy to avoid).

My commute takes me about 45 minutes and I save money (no T-passes) and resources (no gas, more room on the T for other passengers)- my old roomie Neda "Captain Planet" Sobhani would be proud!

Stay Tuned for:
Retail Therapy
Be a filter not a sponge Or Does anyone really know what to think about what is happening in the Middle East?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Follow-up to Queer Eye

So I saw the show and was very pleased. I was a little worried, but they did a great job of making who Miles was approachable while still respecting the complexity (I think that's what I'm trying to say).

My friend Sarah informed me that it was not the first time that a trans person was on reality TV, but it was still exciting anyway, it is good to know that Queer Eye is not the only show that was willing to breach the subject.

Finally, I was also quite happy with how loving and accepting Miles' family is. I remember sophomore year we were hanging out in the library (did you notice the Vermont flag in his apartment- well that used to hang in "the fort" the space we took over in the Library) during finals and Miles was nervous about a wedding (I think) he was going to with his family. It was the first time he would be wearing a suit at a family function while his sisters would be wearing dresses. I don't think I ever heard how it went but I am glad to see where his family is at now.

Not that Frida was trans or that this is really related, but I just love Frida and that last paragraph made me think of her:

That's Frida in the middle :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Queer Eye for the Mount Holyoke Guy

I know what you're thinking. "Is this some J-show skit you were in?" (well maybe you were thinking that if you really know me).

Anyway, this is no skit people, this is the real thing- Bravo TV. Tonight at 10:00 pm Miles Goff, who started Mount Holyoke in '99 (I think) as Amelia Goff will star in
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy episode 302: TRANS-FORM THIS TRANS-MAN.
(Miles is in the back)

I don't know Miles well, but I know that he is a good guy and very kind and I'm really excited for him. He was at our reunion and we said something to him about his upcoming fame and he just sheepishly smiled and asked how we had heard about it. A number of the other friends that appear in the episodes are friends and acquaintances from Mount Holyoke. Needless to say Claudia (a fellow MHC alum) and I are having people over tonight to watch the episode.

This is the first time Queer eye has ever had a trans-gendered person on, and my friend Bekka has speculated that this may be the first time a trans-gendered person has been on a reality TV show. So tune in and check it out, and if you don't read this blog until too late, don't distress it's Bravo, here are the other show times: Tue, Aug 1 12:00 AM, Thu, Aug 3 8:00 PM, and Sat, Aug 5 1:00 PM.

Happy watching :)