Gentilly Girl- a part of the 99%

August 17, 2006

“Clutched Straw” Science

Filed under: Gulf Coast,Louisiana,New Orleans — Tags: , , — Morwen Madrigal @ 3:19 am

Here’s a headline that seems to have relevance, but think about it: is this clutching at straws?

Katrina evacuees called ‘climate refugees’

This is out and out bullshit science. The Deluge Diasphora from New Orleans was caused by the failure and misconceptions of projects designed and overseen by the ACoE in SE Louisiana. It was the failure of Man, not the violence of Nature.
I have accepted Global Warming for decades, but the problem we in Louisiana faced last year was a consequence of man-made affects: the construction of river control levees, protection for New Orleans from storm surges, and the destruction of our wetlands by the actions of both the ACoE and the Gas/Oil industry. This was not a climatic thing.
The Earth Policy Institute is playing into the hands of the nay-sayers of the Rebuild New Orleans crowd with these statements. They make our situation untenable because they skip the direct effects of Man, but will accept Man’s hand in climate change. Our problem is not one of climate at this time: ours is one of violence, injury, and requires triage to the tune of $14B. Our wetlands must be restored.

The EPI is also doing a disservice to the Environmental Community’s work to have Humanity truly understand and accept the notion of Global Warming. Global Warming IS real, but what we learn from the rebuilding/protection of SE Louisiana and from the Dutch’s works will provide much good in the way of protecting our coastal communities for decades to come.

Please let the EPI know that you realize that they are clutching at straws with this theory. They need to go back to the chalkboard.

August 15, 2006

Terrorists Threaten the Isle d’ Orleans!

In the early morning haze that floats above the Isle’s eastern border, an army of terrorists riding upon the backs of elephants bearing oyster rakes and legislation slime their way to the Pearl River. Their goal: to prevent our area from moving forward on Coastal Restoration until such time that Louisiana relents and starts allowing more river water to come through the Bonnet Carre Spillway into Ponchartrain.

Has Hannibal time-slipped to harm our little corner of steamy Paradise? No, it’s Mississippi’s Bigot Senator, Trent Lott. He insists that the water flow be increased into the lake in the possible chance that this will help revive the oyster farms in the Biloxi Marsh. To prove his point, he has had provisions installed in the latest authorization that will provide monies for the Corps to get to work on Coastal Restoration in SE Louisiana to be placed on hold until Louisiana acquieses and foots part of the cost of this project.

This plan was devised almost three decades ago, but never implemented. Why haven’t we enacted this delusional plan you ask? Scientists and environmentalists have maintained that the project will not provide the desired result, and instead wind up polluting the lake with run-off from the MidWest farms to create Dead Zones there. The area will LOSE healthy water ecosystems.
Science is now saying that the best thing to do for the MS oyster farms is to close MR.GO, thus ending the channel’s allowing of seawater intrusion into the marshes, and in time producing a healthier wetland, INCLUDING the Biloxi Marsh. Lott doesn’t wish to wait for the new solution. (wonder what he stands to gain in all of this. Hmmmm?)

Sorry Senator, the plan you endorse was created during the same period as many of the other water projects around here, and many of them FAILED miserably. What we we need at this point in time are new ways of looking at water projects. Good science, not that crap from the Seventies. The Coastal areas must be rebuilt , not just have new water dumped in. Let’s do this right this time, and the Biloxi Marsh will flourish in time.

It’s that, or we will annihilate your army with our gator cannons.

Sinn Fein!


August 13, 2006

Biloxi Blues

Filed under: Gulf Coast,Katrina — Tags: , — Morwen Madrigal @ 12:42 am

Lest anyone forget, I am a child of the Coast from New Orleans to Panama City. Biloxi was a fave of mine: my grandfather lived there, is buried there along with my mom. I remember a world there that had no casinos, but had many shrimp boats, and Mississippi City had Robert Goulet’s club, and an amusement park, Goofy Golf, and a drive-in theatre. My folks used to party that strip, even met Elvis and brought him home for breakfast. He cuddled me as a babe in his arms. The Houma shrimpers docked at the end of our street and their weekend parties were family affairs.

Now all is gone from my one-time home. I cry over that, often.

Goddess Bless the folks of Biloxi…

From the AP:

Biloxi tries to preserve its history

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press WriterSat Aug 12, 5:57 PM ET

As Carla Beaugez steers the Biloxi Tour Train down a beachfront highway, her husband’s recorded voice blares over a loudspeaker for the benefit of two tourists from Tennessee.

“The Grand Casino on your left,” the recording says, “is reported to be the largest floating casino in the world.”

But the passengers see no casino, only cranes and front-end loaders clearing mounds of concrete blocks and twisted metal.

Next stop on the tour is the Tullis-Toledano Manor, built in 1856 by a cotton broker from New Orleans. The recording calls it “one of Mississippi’s most striking homes,” a “magnificent Biloxi treasure.” Beaugez pulls over and turns off the tape.

“The house sat where you see the little red brick remnants,” Beaugez explains, pointing at an otherwise barren plot where the massive Grand Casino barge floated over and crushed the antebellum home.

It takes a healthy imagination to ride the Biloxi Tour Train these days.

Hurricane Katrina washed away the bulk of the city’s historic structures, along with thousands of homes and businesses.

With most of the attractions on the tour train’s route gone, why play the old recording? It’s a way of preserving the history that wind and water erased, Beaugez says.

“The history of Biloxi didn’t end with Katrina. It’s another dimension of who we are,” she adds.

Nearly a year after Katrina struck, Biloxi is a city of dizzying contrasts. On virtually every street corner, signs of steady progress clash with scenes of numbing inertia.

Downtown, workers wearing hard-hats and neon vests plant shrubs and pave sidewalks as the Beau Rivage casino gets ready to reopen on the Aug. 29 anniversary. Vacant lots and concrete slabs dot the other side of the street.

Across from the beaches along U.S. 90 in western Biloxi, government-issued trailers are strapped down in the shadows of gutted homes. A couple of blocks inland, houses appear unscathed, apartment buildings are filled and business is brisk for many retail chains.

And in the southeastern tip of the city, gamblers fill the tables and slot machines at two casinos. The Isle of Capri and Palace Casino tower over Point Cadet, an old working-class neighborhood where virtually every home was demolished by Katrina’s storm surge.

This is where Maurice “Monk” Lynch, 84, has lived for the past six decades. While gamblers relax in air-conditioned comfort, sweat soaks thorough Lynch’s T-shirt as he sits under an umbrella on the sun-filled porch outside his trailer home.

“Must have been 500 houses out here. All gone,” says Lynch, who keeps a fly swatter in his lap as he listens to the radio. “I still look around and figure, ‘This can’t be.’ Where did all the people go? It still doesn’t register.”

Point Cadet comes near the end of Beaugez’s “shrimp train” tour — a nickname derived from Biloxi’s maritime heritage. The tour starts several miles west, in a parking lot off U.S. 90 next to a harbor where roughly two dozen shrimp boats are docked.

Half of those boats are out of commission and for sale, said 16-year-old Linh Nguyen, who helps her mother, Anh, sell the shrimp that her father, Lien, catches in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf Coast’s shrimping industry already was reeling from soaring gas prices and competition from cheap imports before Katrina’s crippling blow. The Nguyens, who moved to Biloxi from Vietnam 15 years ago, now sell most of their catch to wholesalers instead of tourists.

“He says he has no choice but to stay here,” Linh says, translating for her father. “He’s thinking there will be more business coming once the casinos reopen.”

The first stop on the “shrimp train” is the downtown business district. Plywood covers the doors and broken windows of some shops along a four-block stretch of Vieux Marche (French for “Old Market”).

When the train passes an art studio, the owner pokes his head out the front door and waves.

“I’m glad to see you back!” shouts Bill Johnson, 85.

“Glad to be back,” responds Beaugez, who gave her first tour since Katrina in May.

Johnson, who first moved to Biloxi in 1953, rode out the storm in his studio. Four feet of water wrecked the building and ruined all of his oil paintings and art supplies. Now he worries his landlord is about to sell the valuable property, forcing him to move.

“Nobody is buying old buildings here to keep broken-down artists,” he says. “There’s nothing for me here in Biloxi.”

The city’s future looks much brighter from where Mayor A.J. Holloway sits, at nearby City Hall.

He says the city’s recovery will be fueled by the booming casino industry, which has been buoyed by a new state law that allows floating casinos to move ashore. The revenue generated by five casinos peaked at $65.2 million in June. That’s 83 percent of the $78.2 million that nine Biloxi casinos grossed in June 2005. Two more casinos are due back by September and other new projects are in the works.

Holloway says the pace of the city’s recovery has exceeded his initial expectations, but his optimism is tempered by the destruction he sees along U.S. 90.

“Last year at this time everything was great. Look at us now,” he says. After a pregnant pause, he adds, “It’s coming back, though, and we’ll be great again.”

A lack of housing is Biloxi’s most formidable challenge, the mayor acknowledges. Katrina destroyed thousands of homes, but the city had issued only 121 permits for new single-family homes as of June 30.

Without flood insurance to cover damage from Katrina’s water, many homeowners don’t have the money to rebuild. Help for some may not be far off, though. In late July, the state mailed out a first batch of checks for homeowners’ grants of up to $150,000.

A share of that money can’t come soon enough for Maebell May, 77, who’s been living in a trailer on her property in east Biloxi since January. Nothing is left of the house that Katrina’s surge consumed. Her insurance company paid her $16,000.

On May’s kitchen table is a dog-eared copy of an “Affordable Homes” brochure. She flips to page 14 and shows off her dream home, a 1,456-square-foot, ranch-style house. Building it is a pipe dream, though, if the state doesn’t cut her a hefty check.

“I thought we would be building by now,” she says.

As the tour train leaves the business district, Beaugez issues a warning to her passengers.

“Now begins the heartbreak,” she says as the train rolls past block after block of storm-battered houses, empty storefronts and FEMA trailer parks.

Spray-painted in green on a picket fence outside a boarded-up house are “Not Worth Dying For” and “God Bless Biloxi.”

Fraying blue tarps cover many roofs. Yards, once manicured, are choked by weeds.

“You can see the complete annihilation,” says Beaugez, who knew five people who drowned in the storm. All lived along her route, and they always smiled and waved at the passing train.

Katrina killed 231 people in Mississippi, including 52 in Biloxi. At least nine died at the “Little Tivoli,” a two-story motel and apartment building next to the six-story Tivoli Hotel, just west of the Tullis-Toledano Manor.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove has identified all but two of the 97 victims who died in his jurisdiction, which also includes Gulfport to the west of Biloxi. One of those anonymous victims, a black man with a “Love Jones” tattoo on his left forearm, was found in Biloxi.

Hargrove recently brought in a pathologist to examine the two bodies for more clues to their identity. He hopes to give them a proper burial before Katrina’s anniversary.

“It would take a heavy burden off me to know that I’ve done everything I can do for the community and for those who lost their lives,” he said.

At the end of the two-hour tour, Beaugez thanks her only two customers that day — Tony and Karen White of Columbia, Tenn. — but refuses to accept the couple’s money. The tours are a labor of love, not a job, and she’s in a generous mood.

A cancer survivor, Beaugez decided after her initial diagnosis a decade ago that this is how she wants to spend her days. Now, more than ever, she feels a duty to preserve the city’s history — one tourist at a time.

“The essence of Biloxi is not gone,” she says. “It’s alive and well in the character of the people and their determination to continue in spite of hardship.”

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